In recent years much progress has been made towards understanding the selective forces involved in the evolution of social behaviour including conflicts over reproduction among group members. Here, I argue that an important additional step necessary for advancing our understanding of the resolution of potential conflicts within insect societies is to consider the genetics of the behaviours involved. First, I discuss how epigenetic modifications of behaviour may affect conflict resolution within groups. Second, I review known natural polymorphisms of social organization to demonstrate that a lack of consideration of the genetic mechanisms involved may lead to erroneous explanations of the adaptive significance of behaviour. Third, I suggest that, on the basis of recent genetic studies of sexual conflict in Drosophila, it is necessary to reconsider the possibility of within-group manipulation by means of chemical substances (i.e. pheromones). Fourth, I address the issue of direct versus indirect genetic effects, which is of particular importance for the study of behaviour in social groups. Fifth, I discuss the issue of how a genetic influence on dominance hierarchies and reproductive division of labour can have secondary effects, for example in the evolution of promiscuity. Finally, because the same sets of genes (e.g. those implicated in chemical signalling and the responses that are triggered) may be used even in species as divergent as ants, cooperative breeding birds and primates, an integration of genetic mechanisms into the field of social evolution may also provide unifying ideas.