Penelope F. Kukuk, Division of Biological Science, The University of Montana, Missoula, MontanaI am interested in the evolution of various types of social organization in insects, particularly in social bees. There are over 20,000 species of bees; most are solitary but many live in social groups. The organization of these groups can be egalitarian, with all females reproducing, or hierarchical, with a reproductive division of labor. In the family Halictidae, a wide range of social organization facilities comparative studies focusing on the evolution of alternative social systems. At present, I concentrate on the behavior, genetics and ecology of several species of halictine bee (found in southern Australia) that have egalitarian sociality in an effort to demonstrate the evolutionary stability of cooperative, egalitarian social systems, so called communal, societies. The goal is to unearth the evolutionary and ecological circumstances that led to an abundance of communal species in Australia. In addition, my interests extend into the area of insect conservation and insect biodiversity. My research has focused on the competitive interactions between the introduced honeybee (Apis mellifera) and native bees in Australia and plan to extend this work on the ecological impact of this introduced species in western Montana. Finally, I have an ongoing interest in the mating biology of bees, in particular, the halictine species Lasioglossum (Chilalictus) hemichalceum, a species with both normal males and large "fighting" males.
Selected recent publications:
SFI-Social Insect Page