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Eusociality and Division of Labor
Eusociality and Division of Labor


  1. Simulating Eusocial and Solitary Behavior
    • Note: In this simulation, you will portray either a eusocial or solitary animal. The goal of this simulation is to maximize your fitness by reproducing as many offspring as possible during the allotted five minutes. To do this, you must forage for resources and reproduce within the constraints of your assigned role.
    • Assuming a class size of 10, 4 individuals should form the solitary, or the carpenter bee group, and the remaining 6 students should form the eusocial, or the honeybee group. Note: The eusocial honeybee group will include one queen, one drone, and four workers. The queen and the drone will reproduce and protect the resources, while the workers will forage and steal resources. The solitary carpenter bee students must perform all of the tasks in this activity, with the exception of reproduction, by themselves.
    • Store your resources for reproduction in the nest bowl provided by your instructor. These resources are represented by assorted beans that can be collected by foraging in the environment buckets or by stealing from other nests.
    • The blue cups are male and the red cups are female, and they will be used to produce offspring. This is done by combining all four bean types in one red or blue cup to symbolize the resources needed to reproduce, and then stacking one completed cup inside a cup of the opposite color that also contains one of each bean type, to simulate a mating that produces two-cup offspring, one from each parent.
    • To reproduce, the solitary students will need to seek out another solitary student with an opposite-colored cup. Conversely, the eusocial queen and drone always reproduce with each other. HYPOTHESES: The hypotheses for this lab activity are based on the possible benefits of eusocial groups over solitary individuals. The alternate hypothesis could be that one group, either eusocial or solitary, will have an advantage over the other, given the ecological constraints, and this will be reflected in the number of offspring per capita. The null hypothesis might be that there will be advantage conferred by either of the strategies.
    • If you are a worker in the honeybee group or a solitary student in the carpenter bee group, walk to the other side of the room to search through the rice on the foraging side of the room for one bean and bring the bean back to your bowl on the nest side of the room. Note: Even though this activity has a 5-minute time limit, running is not permitted.
    • If a solitary student is not present at a neighboring bowl, you can try to steal one bean at a time, using a cup to scoop up the bean without touching the bean or the bowl with anything but the cup. You must immediately stop trying to steal if the solitary student makes it back to their bowl before you finish stealing. Note: Neighbors cannot steal from eusocial nests because the queen and drone do not leave their nest.
    • You can create offspring at any time during the activity. Remember to label each cup that is contributed to an offspring with your name to keep track of your reproduction. Note: Eusocial groups produce two offspring for their group every time they reproduce, while solitary students produce only one offspring per reproductive coupling.
  2. Results
    • If you were a solitary carpenter bee, record the number of offspring you produced in the appropriate row of the table. Click Here to download Table 1
    • If you were a part of the eusocial honeybee group, record the number of offspring produced by your queen and drone.
    • To calculate the fitness for a solitary carpenter bee student, simply count the number of offspring that the student produced.
    • To calculate the fitness for a eusocial honeybee student, divide the number of offspring produced by the queen and drone by the number of members in the group, in this case 6, to get a per-student fitness value.
    • When each student has calculated their respective fitness value, calculate the average number of offspring produced for each social category and plot these as a bar graph. Click Here to download Table 2
    • Next, use Hamilton's equation to analyze the data. To do this, set r equal to the degree of relatedness, B to the class average eusocial fitness, and C to the class average solitary fitness. r * B > C
    • Use these results to determine if altruistic behavior should persist in your eusocial honeybee group. Discuss the variables in Hamilton's equation that may contribute to this observation. Consider circumstances under which you would expect to see different results.


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