, Volume 93, Issue 10, pp 487–494 | Cite as

“Winter” aggregations, colony cycle, and seasonal phenotypic change in the paper wasp Polistes versicolor in subtropical Brazil

  • Nivar Gobbi
  • Fernando B. NollEmail author
  • Marcelo A. H. Penna
Original Article


Social wasps from temperate zones have clear annual colony cycles, and the young queens hibernate during winter. In the subtropics, the only previously reported evidence for the existence of “hibernation” is the facultative winter aggregations of females during harsh climate conditions. As in temperate-zone species analyzed so far, we show in this study that in the paper wasp, Polistes versicolor, a subtropical species, body size increases as an unfavorable season approaches. Our morphological studies indicate that larger females come from winter aggregations—that is, they are new queens. Multivariate analyses indicate that size is the only variable analyzed that shows a relationship to the differences. Given the absence of a harsh climate, we suggest that the occurrence of winter aggregations in tropical P. versicolor functions to allow some females to wait for better environmental conditions to start a new nest, rather than all being obliged to start a new nest as soon as they emerge.


Polistes Paper wasps Winter congregations Life cycle Caste differences 



We thank Mary Jane West-Eberhard (Smithsonian Institute) and John Wenzel (The Ohio State University) for the corrections and suggestions on the early draft of the manuscript. Kurt M. Pickett and James M. Carpenter (American Museum of Natural History) read the final version and gave important suggestions. This work was supported by grants from FAPESP (Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo)—grant # 01-02491-4 and CNPq (Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico)—grant # 300312/2004-0. Specimens were collected under permission from IBAMA (02027.001914/2002-95).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nivar Gobbi
    • 1
  • Fernando B. Noll
    • 2
    Email author
  • Marcelo A. H. Penna
    • 1
  1. 1.Departamento de Ecologia/CEASão Paulo State UniversityRio ClaroBrazil
  2. 2.Departamento de Zoologia e Botânica, Instituto de Biociências, Letras e Ciências ExatasSão Paulo State UniversitySão José do Rio PretoBrazil

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