, Volume 95, Issue 7, pp 677–680 | Cite as

Signaling hunger through aggression—the regulation of foraging in a primitively eusocial wasp

  • Shakti Lamba
  • K. Chandrasekhar
  • Raghavendra Gadagkar
Short Communication


Primitively eusocial wasps are generally headed by behaviorally dominant queens who use their aggression to suppress worker reproduction. In contrast, queens in the primitively eusocial wasp Ropalidia marginata are strikingly docile and non-aggressive. However, workers exhibit dominance–subordinate interactions among themselves. These interactions do not appear to reflect reproductive competition because there is no correlation between the relative position of an individual in the dominance hierarchy of the colony and the likelihood that she will succeed a lost/removed queen. Based on the observation that foraging continues unaltered in the absence of the queen and the correlation between dominance behavior and foraging, we have previously suggested that dominance-subordinate interactions among workers in R. marginata have been co-opted to serve the function of decentralized, self-organized regulation of foraging. This idea has been supported by an earlier experimental study where it was found that a reduced demand for food led to a significant decrease in dominance behavior. In this study, we perform the converse experiment, demonstrate that dominance behavior increases under conditions of starvation, and thus provide further evidence in support of the hypothesis that intranidal workers signal hunger through aggression.


Foraging Dominance behavior Signaling hunger Primitively eusocial wasp Ropalidia marginata Regulation of foraging 



We thank the Department of Science and Technology, the Department of Biotechnology, and the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India, for financial assistance. All experiments reported in this paper comply with the current laws in India. S.L. and K.C. performed the experiments under the supervision of R.G. S.L. and R.G. co-wrote the paper. We thank Sujata Deshpande and Anindita Bhadra for many helpful discussions during the design of the study.


  1. Bruyndonckx N, Kardile SP, Gadagkar R (2006) Dominance behaviour and regulation of foraging in the primitively eusocial wasp Ropalidia marginata (Lep.) (Hymenoptera: Vespidae). Behav Processes 72:100–103PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Chandrashekara K, Gadagkar R (1991) Behavioural castes, dominance and division of labour in a primitively eusocial wasp. Ethology 87:269–283CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Chandrashekara K, Gadagkar R (1992) Queen succession in the primitively eusocial wasp Ropalidia marginata (Hymenoptera: Vespidae) (Lep.). J Insect Behav 5:193–209CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Deshpande SA, Sumana A, Surbeck M, Gadagkar R (2006) Wasp who would be queen: a comparative study of two primitively eusocial species. Curr Sci 91:332–336Google Scholar
  5. Gadagkar R (1980) Dominance hierarchy and division of labour in the social wasp, Ropalidia marginata (Lep.) (Hymenoptera: Vespidae). Curr Sci 49:772–775Google Scholar
  6. Gadagkar R (2001) The social biology of Ropalidia marginata: toward understanding the evolution of eusociality. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, USAGoogle Scholar
  7. Gadagkar R, Joshi NV (1983) Quantitative ethology of social wasps: time-activity budgets and caste differentiation in Ropalidia marginata (Lep.) (Hymenoptera: Vespidae). Anim Behav 31:26–31CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Gamboa GJ, Wacker TL, Scope JA, Cornell TJ, Shellman-Reeve J (1990) The mechanism of queen regulation of foraging by workers in paper wasps (Polistes fuscatus, Hymenoptera, Vespidae). Ethology 85:335–343CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Jeanne RL (1972) Social biology of the neotropical wasp Mischocyttarus drewseni. Bull Mus Comp Zool 144:63–150Google Scholar
  10. Kardile SP, Gadagkar R (2002) Docile sitters and active fighters in paper wasps: a tale of two queens. Naturwissenschaften 89:176–179PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. O’Donnell S (1995) Division of labor in post-emergence colonies of the primitively eusocial wasp Polistes instabilis de Saussure (Hymenoptera: Vespidae). Ins Soc 42:17–29CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. O’Donnell S (1998) Effects of experimental forager removals on division of labour in the primitively eusocial wasp Polistes instabilis (Hymenoptera: Vespidae). Behaviour 135:173–193Google Scholar
  13. O’Donnell S (2001) Worker biting interactions and task performance in swarm-founding eusocial wasp (Polybia occidentalis, Hymenoptera: Vespidae). Behav Ecol 12:353–359CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. O’Donnell S (2003) The development of biting interactions and task performance in a tropical eusocial wasp. Behaviour 140:255–267CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. O’Donnell S (2006) Polybia wasp biting interactions recruit foragers following experimental worker removals. Anim Behav 71:709–715CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Pardi L (1948) Dominance order in Polistes wasps. Physiol Zool 21:1–13PubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Premnath S, Sinha A, Gadagkar R (1995) Regulation of worker activity in a primitively eusocial wasp, Ropalidia marginata. Behav Ecol 6:117–123CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Reeve HK (1991) Polistes. In: Ross KG, Matthews RW (eds) The social biology of wasps. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, pp 99–148Google Scholar
  19. Röseler PF (1991) Reproductive competition during colony establishment. In: Ross KG, Matthews RW (eds) The social biology of wasps. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, pp 309–335Google Scholar
  20. Sumana A, Starks PT (2004) The function of dart behavior in the paper wasp, Polistes fuscatus. Naturwissenschaften 91:220–223PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. West-Eberhard MJ (1969) The social biology of polistine wasps. Misc Publ Mus Zool Univ Mich 140:1–101Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shakti Lamba
    • 1
  • K. Chandrasekhar
    • 1
  • Raghavendra Gadagkar
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Centre for Ecological SciencesIndian Institute of ScienceBangaloreIndia
  2. 2.Evolutionary and Organismal Biology UnitJawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific ResearchBangaloreIndia

Personalised recommendations