Published on Brock University (http://www.brocku.ca)
Phone: 905 688 5550 x4406
Insect social behaviour
Sociobiology is the study of the proximate and ultimate causes of sociality in animals. My primary research focus is on the evolution of altruism in insects, especially bees. A recent secondary direction is in the evolutionary basis of human behaviour.
One of the most interesting aspects of animal sociality is the evolution of cooperative behaviour, which is observed in many different kinds of animals, from bees to humans. In extreme cases such as colonial social insects, individuals known as workers or soldiers display a remarkable degree of self-sacrifice in aiding other individuals, foregoing reproduction or even dying to defend the colony. The existence of altruism in insects and other animals, including humans, poses a fascinating evolutionary conundrum: how does reproductive altruism evolve when altruists contribute fewer genes to succeeding generations than do the selfish individuals that they help? Finding answers to this question is the main focus of research in my lab. For several years, we have been carrying out detailed field studies of social sweat bees with widely differing levels of altruistic behaviour. In these studies, we first quantify exactly how helpful supposed altruists are, and then look for clues as to how and why observed levels of altruism and cooperation are maintained in different sweat bee populations and species.
Student contributions marked with an asterisk *
*Skandalis DA, GJ Tattersall, S Prager, and MH Richards. 2009. Body Size and Shape of the Large Carpenter Bee, Xylocopa virginica (L.) (Hymenoptera: Apidae). Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society, 82(1), 30-42. [pdf]
[Erratum: Due to a printing error, the data in Table 1 for wet mass and dry mass are out by a factor of 10. They should be multiplied by 10 to reveal the true weights in milligrams]
*Rehan SM, MH Richards, and MP Schwarz. 2009. Evidence of social nesting in the Ceratina of Borneo. Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society 82(2), 194-209. [pdf]
*Rehan SM and MH Richards. 2010. Nesting biology and subsociality in Ceratina calcarata. The Canadian Entomologist 142(1), 65-74. [pdf]
Richards MH and L Packer. 2010. Social behaviours in solitary bees: Interactions among individuals in Xeralictus bicuspidariae Snelling (Hymenoptera: Halictidae: Rophitinae). Journal of Hymenoptera Research 19(1), 66-76. [pdf]
*Richards MH, J Vickruck, and SM Rehan. 2010. Colony social organisation of Halictus confusus in southern Ontario, with comments on sociality in the subgenus H. (Seladonia). Journal of Hymenoptera Research 19(1), 144-158. [pdf]
*Peso M and MH Richards. Knowing who's who: nestmate recognition in the facultatively social carpenter bee, Xylocopa virginica. Animal Behaviour 79, 563-570. [pdf]
Gray DA, P Barnfield, M Seifried, MH Richards. 2006. Molecular divergence between Gryllus rubens and Gryllus texensis, sister species of field crickets (Orthoptera: Gryllidae). The Canadian Entomologist 138, 305-313 [pdf]
Schwarz MP, MH Richards, and BN Danforth. 2007. Changing paradigms in insect social evolution: insights from halictine and allodapine bees. Annual Review of Entomology 52, 127-150 [pdf]
*Rehan S and MH Richards. 2008. Morphological and DNA sequence delineation of two problematic species of Ceratina (Hymenoptera: Apidae) from Eastern Canada. Journal of the Entomological Society of Ontario 139, 59-67. [pdf]
*Frampton M, S Droege, T Conrad, S Prager, and MH Richards. 2008. Evaluation of specimen preservatives for DNA analyses of bees. Journal of Hymenoptera Research 17 (2), 195-200. [pdf]
*Wyman LM and MH Richards. 2003. Colony social organization of Lasioglossum malachurum Kirby (Hymenoptera; Halictidae) in southern Greece. Insectes Sociaux 50(3), 201-211 [pdf]
*Dunn T and MH Richards. 2003. When to bee social: interactions among environmental constraints, concessions, pollen-guarding, and relatedness in a facultatively social carpenter bee. Behavioral Ecology, 14, 417-424 [pdf]
*Richards MH, E von Wettberg, and A Rutgers. 2003. A novel social polymorphism in a primitively eusocial bee. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, USA, 100(12), 7175-7180. [pdf]
Richards MH. 2003. Variable worker behaviour in the weakly eusocial sweat bee, Halictus sexcinctus Fabricius. Insectes Sociaux 50(4), 361-364. [pdf]
Gonzalez VH, E Moreno, and MH Richards. 2004. Nesting biology of a neotropical bee, Ceratina mexicana currani Schwarz (Hymenoptera: Apidae: Xylocopinae). Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society 77(1), 58-60
Richards MH. 2004. Annual and social variation in foraging effort of the obligately eusocial sweat bee, Halictus ligatus Say (Hymenoptera, Halictidae). Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society 77(4), 484-502.
*Woodward K and MH Richards. 2005. Parental investment and mate choice criteria in humans. Behavioral Ecology 16 (1), 57-61. [html]
Richards MH, D French, and RJ Paxton. 2005. It’s good to bee queen: microsatellites reveal classically eusocial colony structure and low worker fitness in an obligately eusocial sweat bee. Molecular Ecology 14, 4123-4133. [pdf]
Richards MH. 1994. Social evolution in the genus Halictus: A phylogenetic approach. Insectes Sociaux 41, 315-325. [pdf]
Richards MH and L Packer. 1998. Demography and relatedness in multiple foundress nests of the primitively eusocial sweat bee, Halictus ligatus. Insectes Sociaux 45, 97-109. [pdf]
Richards MH and JL Nelson. 2000. The evolution of vertebrate antigen receptors: A phylogenetic approach. Molecular Biology and Evolution 17, 146-155. [pdf]
Richards MH. 2000. Evidence for geographic variation in colony social organization of an obligately social sweat bee, Lasioglossum malachurum Kirby (Hymenoptera; Halictidae). Canadian Journal of Zoology 78, 1259-1266. [pdf]
Richards MH. 2001. Nesting biology and social organization of Halictus sexcinctus (Fabricius) in southern Greece. Canadian Journal of Zoology 79, 2210-2220. [pdf]
Rosehart K, MH Richards and MJ Bidochka. 2002. Microsatellite analysis of environmental and clinical isolates of the opportunistic fungal pathogen, Aspergillus fumigatus. Journal of Medical Microbiology 51, 1128-1134.
Courses in Winter 2011
BIOL 2P05 Evolutionary and Behavioural Ecology