Pleometrosis (colony founding by multiple queens) may improve life history characteristics that are important for early colony survival. When queens unite their initial brood, the number of workers present when incipient colonies open may be higher than for single queen colonies. Further, the time until the first worker emerges may shorten. For territorial species and species that rob brood from neighbouring colonies, a faster production of more workers may improve the chance of surviving intraspecific competition. In this study, the time from the nuptial flight to the emergence of the first worker in incipient Oecophylla smaragdina Fab. colonies founded by 1 to 5 queens was compared and the production of brood during the first 68 days after the nuptial flight was assessed. Compared to haplometrotic colonies, pleometrotic colonies produced 3.2 times more workers, their first worker emerged on average 4.3 days (8 %) earlier and the queen´s per capita egg production almost doubled. Further, colony production was positively, correlated with the number of founding queens and time to worker emergence negatively correlated. The number of eggs queen-1 at day 68 was negatively correlated with development time, showing that earlier development of the first worker increased queen fecundity. These results indicate that pleometrotic O. smaragdina colonies are competitively superior to haplometrotic colonies as they produce more workers faster and shorten the claustral phase, leading to increased queen fecundity.
Insectes Sociaux, 2012, Vol 59, Issue 3, p. 307-311