Insectes Sociaux

, Volume 56, Issue 1, pp 14–20 | Cite as

Worker reproductive competition affects division of labor in a primitively social paperwasp (Polistes instabilis)

  • Y. Molina
  • S. O’Donnell
Research article


Social insects are premier models for studying the evolution of self-organization in animal societies. Primitively social species may be informative about the early stages of social evolution and transitions in self-organization. Previous worker removal studies in Polistes instabilis paper wasps suggested that dominant but non-egglaying workers play an important role in regulating rates of task performance by inducing foraging in subordinates. We extend previous worker removal studies by quantifying changes in individuals’ behavior following removals, and by measuring associations between behavioral change and individuals’ reproductive capacity (ovary development). Workers changed their rates of aggressive behaviors more than queens following the dominant worker removals. Increases in worker’s rates of aggressive behaviors were correlated with decreases in their foraging rates. Changes in individual rates of social aggression were associated with their reproductive capacity: worker females with well-developed ovaries increased their rates of aggression. Further changes in rates of aggression after the dominant workers were returned also depended on ovary development. These patterns suggest that task performance and potential fecundity are linked in workers, and that worker interactions play a strong role in regulating task performance. We conclude that worker reproductive competition may have influenced the evolution of colony organization in social insects.


Polistes instabilis dominance foraging polyethism social organization social evolution 


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Copyright information

© Birkhäuser Verlag, Basel 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Animal Behavior Program, Department of PsychologyUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA

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