Journal of Insect Behavior

, Volume 9, Issue 4, pp 643-656

First online:

Parasitism rates in relation to nest site in bees and wasps (Hymenoptera: Apoidea)

  • William T. WcisloAffiliated withSmithsonian Tropical Research InstituteUnit 0948, APO AA, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


To account for differences in occurrence of social behavior in different lineages of bees, Michener (1985) hypothesized that ground nests are more easily located by parasites than are twig nests. In the former case parasites search in two dimensions, while in the latter they search in three-dimensional space. One prediction derived from this hypothesis is that ground nests will have higher rates of parasitism than twig nests. A survey of published reports on rates of cell parasitism for 92 species of nesting bees and wasps (Apoidea) shows no significant differences in mean parasitism rates between these two classes of nests. The analyses were repeated at the generic level (N=44), yielding the same pattern. These data may be biased due to phylogenetic effects. Paired comparisons (n=11 pairs) of related taxa that differ in nest site show that ground-nesting taxa more often have higher rates of parasitism than twig-nesters. The use of artificial “trap-nests” to study twig-nesters significantly enhances the success rate of parasites. This bias, as well as several other limitations, suggests that experimental studies of the host-searching capabilities of parasites and predators may be more efficacious than such comparative tests.

Key Words

Apoidea bee sphecid wasp parasitism search behavior habitat