Insectes Sociaux

, Volume 57, Issue 4, pp 465–475 | Cite as

Dominance hierarchy among workers changes with colony development in Polistes japonicus (Hymenoptera, Vespidae) paper wasp colonies with a small number of workers

  • Y. Ishikawa
  • Y. Y. Yamada
  • M. Matsuura
  • M. Tsukada
  • K. Tsuchida
Research Article


Dominance hierarchy in the primitively eusocial wasp Polistes japonicus was analysed in four colonies for two periods: (1) the first-brood period, when only early emerging workers are present on the nest, and (2) the mixed-brood period, when the first and second (last) broods are present on the nest. The rank in the dominance hierarchy was determined based on a sociogram showing a dominance–subordinance relationship for all pairs of workers. During the first-brood period, older workers were likely to be more dominant (older dominance hierarchy), while the rank of workers was reversed during the mixed-brood period, with younger workers being likely to be more dominant (younger dominance hierarchy). However, the oldest and youngest workers were not always the top-ranked workers in the dominance hierarchy during the first- and mixed-brood periods, respectively, and during the mixed-brood period no younger dominance hierarchy was evident when the first or second brood was analysed separately. Higher ranked workers displayed dominance behaviour more frequently, and the lowest ranked worker hardly displayed dominance behaviour. Most workers displayed dominance behaviours primarily towards the worker ranked immediately below in the dominance hierarchy during the mixed-brood period but not during the first-brood period. The bodies of younger workers were larger for the mixed brood, but not for the first brood in some colonies or the second brood in all colonies. The association between body size and rank in the dominance hierarchy was negative during the first-brood period and positive during the mixed-brood period, with a nearly significant trend also seen even when the analysis was limited to the second brood. To explain the above temporal change from an older dominance hierarchy to a younger dominance hierarchy, we propose the hypothesis that the probability of a worker inheriting the colony increases rapidly with colony development, and consequently younger larger workers attempt to move up the dominance hierarchy in order to produce their own offspring by becoming the superseder late in colony development, rather than working harmoniously so as to boost the overall production of reproductive progeny for a colony, which is the strategy adopted early in colony development.


Emergence order Dominance hierarchy Polistella Polistinae Social wasps 



We thank two anonymous referees for helpful comments on the manuscript.


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Copyright information

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

Authors and Affiliations

  • Y. Ishikawa
    • 1
  • Y. Y. Yamada
    • 1
  • M. Matsuura
    • 1
  • M. Tsukada
    • 1
  • K. Tsuchida
    • 2
  1. 1.Insect Ecology Laboratory, Graduate School of BioresourcesMie UniversityTsuJapan
  2. 2.Laboratory of Insect Ecology, Faculty of Applied Biological SciencesGifu UniversityGifuJapan

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