Guided by natural history knowledge, our research addresses central questions relating to the evolution of behavior. In effect, we let the animals tell us what the most promising questions are, specifically: how do they make behavioral decisions, what neural and sensory mechanisms do they employ and what are the consequences of their decisions?


Our lab uses natural history observations, combined with experimental field and laboratory studies, to better understand the evolution of animal behavior in changing environments. 

Featured publications

Karen M. Kapheim KM, Jones BM, Pan H, Li C, Harpur BA, Kent CF, Zayed A, Ioannidis P, Waterhouse RM, Kingwell CJ, Stolle E, Avalos A, Zhang Z, McMillan WO, Wcislo WT. 2020 Developmental plasticity shapes social traits and selection in a facultatively eusocial bee.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA

Smith AR, Kapheim KM, Kingwell CJ &Wcislo WT. 2019. A split sex ratio in solitary and social nests of a facultatively social bee. Biology Letters 15: 20180740.

Stone T, Webb B, Adden A, Weddig NB, Honkanen A, Templin R, Wcislo W, Scimeca L, Warrant E, Heinze S. 2017. An anatomically constrained model for path integration in the bee brain. Current Biology 27:3065-3089

Featured story

Dark navigation

First report of dorsal navigation in a flying insect

People—who get lost easily in the extraordinary darkness of a tropical forest—have much to learn from a bee that can find its way home in conditions 10 times dimmer than starlight. Researchers at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute’s (STRI) research station on Barro Colorado Island in Panama and the University of Lund in Sweden reveal that sweat bees (Megalopta genalis), find their way home based on patterns in the canopy overhead using dorsal vision.

Featured video

The Rise and Fall of Insect Societies

Lessons from Bees and Ants


The world of pollinators

In celebration of World Bee Day, Panama’s Summit Municipal Park and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) participated in an event on Sunday May 22nd called The World of Pollinators, to educate visitors about bees and other essential pollinators and their role in sustaining biodiversity.


Dr. William Wcislo

Principal investigator

Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. Evolution Behavior and Neurobiology

Panama mailing address

Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
Attn: William Wcislo
Apartado 0843 – 03092
Panamá, República de Panamá

US mailing address

Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
Attn: William Wcislo
9100 Panama City Place
Washington DC 20521-9100, USA