Mutual policing is an important mechanism for maintaining social harmony in group-living organisms. In some ants, bees, and wasps, workers police male eggs laid by other workers in order to maintain the reproductive primacy of the queen. Kin selection theory predicts that multiple mating by the queen is one factor that can selectively favor worker policing. This is because when the queen is mated to multiple males, workers are more closely related to queen's sons than to the sons of other workers. Here we provide an additional test of worker policing theory in Vespinae wasps. We show that the yellowjacket Vespula rufa is characterized by low mating frequency, and that a significant percentage of the males are workers' sons. This supports theoretical predictions for paternities below 2, and contrasts with other Vespula species, in which paternities are higher and few or no adult males are worker produced, probably due to worker policing, which has been shown in one species, Vespula vulgaris. Behavioral observations support the hypothesis that V. rufa has much reduced worker policing compared to other Vespula. In addition, a significant proportion of worker-laid eggs were policed by the queen.
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Vol. 59 • No. 6