The evolution of sociality in insects holds a central place in evolutionary theory. By examining the phylogenetic patterns of solitary and social behavior and how they correlate with ecological variables, we may identify factors important in the evolution of sociality. In this study, we investigated historical and biogeographical patterns of sociality in a socially polymorphic bee species (one that demonstrates both social and solitary nesting behavior). This unique system allows for a more powerful examination of evolutionary transitions in sociality than interspecific studies of obligately social and solitary species. We conducted a phylogenetic analysis among populations of the halictine bee Halictus rubicundus and then identified relationships among mitochondrial DNA sequence data, sociality, environmental conditions at the nesting site, and geographic location of populations of this species. Within North America, populations of H. rubicundus expressing social and solitary behavior belong to different genetic lineages. Sociality is also correlated with at least one environmental variable used in this study. Taken together, the results support the predictions for genetic control of sociality, but they are still consistent with social behavior at some level being determined by the environmental conditions at the nesting site.
Corresponding Editor: K. Ross