Although multiple mating most likely increases mortality risk for social insect queens and lowers the kin benefits for nonreproductive workers, a significant proportion of hymenopteran queens mate with several males. It has been suggested that queens may mate multiply as a means to manipulate sex ratios to their advantage. Multiple paternity reduces the extreme relatedness value of females for workers, selecting for workers to invest more in males. In populations with female-biased sex ratios, queens heading such male-producing colonies would achieve a higher fitness. We tested this hypothesis in a Swiss and a Swedish population of the ant Lasius niger. There was substantial and consistent variation in queen mating frequency and colony sex allocation within and among populations, but no evidence that workers regulated sex allocation in response to queen mating frequency; the investment in females did not differ among paternity classes. Moreover, population-mean sex ratios were consistently less female biased than expected under worker control and were close to the queen optimum. Queens therefore had no incentive to manipulate sex ratios because their fitness did not depend on the sex ratio of their colony. Thus, we found no evidence that the sex-ratio manipulation theory can explain the evolution and maintenance of multiple mating in L. niger.
Corresponding Editor: D. Wheeler