Social Insects (C1139)

15 credits, Level 6

Autumn teaching

The eusocial insects comprise approximately 20,000 species of ants, termites, bees and wasps. Eusociality in these groups has evolved 20­-100 million years ago on approximately 10 occasions and has given rise to highly ­organized societies with up to 20 million individuals. Eusocial insects are of great economic and ecological importance. They are also key model systems in many important areas of biology.

The module is divided into several parts:

1) general background material on social insects, focusing in greater detail on four contrasting areas in which research on social insects is particularly active

2) inclusive fitness theory and relatedness

3) how insect societies are organised

4) another special topic relevant to social insect biology, such as mutualisms and symbioses involving social insects; the ecological importance of social insects; the evolution of eusociality in insects; or using social insects to investigate sensory physiology (topics will vary each year)

There will also be two laboratory sessions from a range including: the honey bee waggle dance, nestmate recognition and guarding in honey bees, organisation of ant trail systems, and reproductive queueing in Polistes wasps.

Teaching and assessment

We’re currently reviewing teaching and assessment of our modules in light of the COVID-19 situation. We’ll publish the latest information as soon as possible.

Contact hours and workload

This module is approximately 150 hours of work. This breaks down into about 33 hours of contact time and about 117 hours of independent study. The University may make minor variations to the contact hours for operational reasons, including timetabling requirements.

This module is running in the academic year 2020/21. We also plan to offer it in future academic years. It may become unavailable due to staff availability, student demand or updates to our curriculum. We’ll make sure to let our applicants know of such changes to modules at the earliest opportunity.