Her target is Lasioglossum albipes, an unusual species of the so-called sweat bee that is capable of two very different lifestyles. Depending on where and to whom they’re born, these bees live either largely alone, raising their own young, or as part of a commune, where tasks such as caring for the young and foraging for food are divvied up and all members reap the rewards. Although honeybees are legendary for their complex cooperative societies, the vast majority of bee species are solitary creatures. Few can adopt either lifestyle, living alone or as part of a community as circumstances dictate. These species are particularly interesting because they represent an intermediate step in the progression from a solitary existence to a social one. “How did social insects evolve from solitary ancestors?” said Sandra Rehan, a biologist at the University of New Hampshire who studies a different bee with similar behavioral flexibility.
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