Nest odor dynamics in the social wasp Vespula vulgaris
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- Steinmetz, I. & Schmolz, E. Naturwissenschaften (2005) 92: 414. doi:10.1007/s00114-005-0006-9
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We investigated nest odor dynamics in the common yellow jacket, Vespula vulgaris. In six isolated colonies, we tested the aggression rates toward dead nestmates that had been stored for 10 min, 10 and 19 days outside their colonies at –76 °C. The aggression rate increased from about 12% toward recently killed nestmates up to 30% toward nestmates killed 19 days before the experiment. Obviously, the conserved nest odor profile of the nestmates frozen for several days did not match with that of their colony anymore. This indicates a change of the nest odor within the colony. In a second experiment, we kept two colonies each in one nest box with a complete separation of both neighbor nests by a solid wall inside the box for 28 days. In confrontation experiments, the colony members treated dead foragers from the neighbor nest as aggressively as dead foreign, non-neighbor workers (about 39% each) whereas only about 14% reacted aggressively toward dead nestmates. Seventeen days after the replacement of the solid wall by a metallic grid, which allowed no physical contact but air exchange between the two neighbor colonies, the aggression rates toward foreign workers and nestmates remained relatively unaffected whereas it decreased significantly toward dead neighbors to about 11%. These results suggest a nest odor dynamic caused by volatiles transferred between two adjacent colonies, resulting in an equalization of the former colony specific nest odors. A change of nest odor dynamics influenced by volatiles was so far described only for one ant species at all.