Primitively eusocial insects often lack morphological caste differentiation, leading to considerable flexibility in the social and reproductive roles that the adult insects may adopt. Although this flexibility and its consequences for social organization have received much attention there has been relatively little effort to detect any pre-imaginal effects leading to a bias in the potential caste of eclosing females. Experiments reported here show that only about 50% of eclosing females of the tropical social wasp Ropalidia marginata build nests and lay eggs, in spite of being isolated from all conspecifics and being provided ad libitum food since eclosion. The number of empty cells in the parent nest, which we believe to be an indication of the queen's declining influence, and a wasp's own rate of feeding during adult life predict the probability of egg laying by eclosing females. These results call for an examination of the possibility that all females in primitively eusocial insect societies are not potentially capable of becoming egg layers and that reigning queens and possibly other adults exert an influence on the production of new queens.