, Volume 42, Issue 3, pp 223-236

Observations onApoica pallens, a nocturnal neotropical social wasp (Hymenoptera: Vespidae, Polistinae, Epiponini)

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Summary

Colonies and nests ofApoica pallens in the llanos region of Venezuela range from small foundress nests to large mature colonies. Nests are sited on small diameter, near-horizontal branches in a variety of shrub and tree species. During the day, adult wasps cluster on the face of the nest in an array that seems to be determined by orientation to gravity; defense of the colony against parasitoids and ants by the resting wasps may be more a passive than an active behavior. Wasps fan their wings to cool the colony during the day, but no foraging for water accompanies the fanning behavior. Nightly foraging activity begins with the explosive departure from the nest of hundreds of wasps, most of which rapidly return. Moderate foraging levels early at night give way to very low foraging levels in pre-dawn hours. The period of moderate foraging may be extended for longer hours during increased moonlight. Foraging wasps collect arthropod provisions for larvae. Larvae produce a trophallactic saliva; adults engage in inter-adult trophallaxis; brood are cannibalized. During cluster formation prior to swarm emigration, adult wasps do not appear to scent-mark substrates such as leaves. Instead,A. pallens exhibits a calling behavior, unique among polistine wasps studied to date, in which the gaster is held rigidly away from the thorax and metasomal sternal glands are exposed. Swarms can emigrate during the day.A. pallens may incorporate absconding and colony relocation as features of its colony cycle in the highly seasonal llanos.