Insectes Sociaux

, Volume 57, Issue 4, pp 457–463 | Cite as

Sexual interactions and nestmate recognition in invasive populations of Polistes dominulus wasps

  • A. E. LiebertEmail author
  • N. Wilson-Rich
  • C. E. Johnson
  • P. T. Starks
Research Article


Many social insect species have mating systems or recognition abilities that minimize the chance of inbreeding. In haplodiploid systems, inbreeding is especially costly due to the production of sterile offspring such as diploid males. Diploid males (and their triploid offspring) have been identified in invasive populations of the paper wasp, Polistes dominulus, but to date have not been reported in its native populations. Due to the degree of genetic diversity in the invasive populations, it is unlikely that the production of these genetic ‘misfits’ is the result of a genetic bottleneck alone, but rather that errors in nestmate recognition may play a role. Here, we investigated sexual interactions and nestmate recognition in male and female P. dominulus. We observed nine types of behavioral interactions (55 h of behavioral observation consisting of 1,514 interactions) from triads of paper wasps composed of one gyne (female) and two males—one nestmate male and one non-nestmate male. The frequency of male- or female-initiated aggressive behavior did not differ between nestmates or non-nestmates. Non-nestmates were more likely to attempt to copulate with the gyne, but successful copulations were very rare and occurred between non-nestmates and nestmates. We discuss these results within the context of invasion biology.


Sexual selection Competition Hymenoptera Paper wasps Diploid males 



The authors thank G. Switz, R. Brown, and S. Weiner for assistance with specimen collection and care. S. Rubin was of great assistance in conducting trials and gathering data. We also thank two anonymous reviewers and Laura Beani for thoughtful comments on an earlier version of this manuscript. This project was funded by an NSF REU grant to PTS. These experiments comply with the current laws of the country in which they were performed (USA).


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Copyright information

© International Union for the Study of Social Insects (IUSSI) 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. E. Liebert
    • 1
    Email author
  • N. Wilson-Rich
    • 2
  • C. E. Johnson
    • 2
  • P. T. Starks
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of BiologyFramingham State CollegeFraminghamUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biology, Dana LaboratoriesTufts UniversityMedfordUSA

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