Journal of Insect Behavior

, Volume 21, Issue 2, pp 72-81

First online:

Extreme Polygyny: Multi-seasonal “Hypergynous” Nesting in the Introduced Paper Wasp Polistes dominulus

  • Aviva E. LiebertAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, Framingham State College Email author 
  • , Julia HuiAffiliated withBoston University School of Medicine
  • , Peter NonacsAffiliated withDepartment of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California
  • , Philip T. StarksAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, Tufts University

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In temperate climates, female paper wasps typically initiate new colonies in the spring. Several nest-founding tactics have been documented in Polistes species, including solitary nest initiation, joining a cooperative association, usurping an existing nest, or adopting an abandoned nest. Occasionally, exceptionally large groups of females have also been found reusing nests from the previous season. Here we report this phenomenon in introduced populations of the Eurasian species Polistes dominulus. We describe in detail the demographic and genetic characteristics of one such spring colony from Los Angeles, California, USA, which was collected with 84 associated adults and all stages of developing brood in its 613 cells. Genetic and morphological data indicate the presence of multiple reproductively active females of varying relatedness, as well as many nonbreeding females, including probable early-produced offspring. Despite some evidence of chaotic social conditions, the colony appeared to have been highly productive. Additional observations of similar colonies are needed to determine how control is maintained within such a large breeding aggregation.


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