Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 61, Issue 6, pp 975–983 | Cite as

Exploitation of carbohydrate food sources in Polybia occidentalis: social cues influence foraging decisions in swarm-founding wasps

  • Michael HrncirEmail author
  • Sidnei Mateus
  • Fábio S. Nascimento
Original Paper


An efficient exploitation of carbohydrate food sources would be beneficial for social wasp species that store nectar within their nest. In the swarm-founding polistine wasp Polybia occidentalis, we now demonstrate that the decisions of when and where to forage are influenced by information from conspecifics. Only when foragers had been trained to collect at artificial carbohydrate feeders did newcomers (food-source-naive individuals) continuously arrive at these feeders during 2 h of experiment. In control tests, in which no forager had been trained, not a single newcomer alighted at any of the offered carbohydrate food sources. This indicates that, during the foraging process, a nest-based input provided by successful foragers must have stimulated nestmates to search for food. Once activated, the newcomers’ choice on where to collect was strongly influenced by field-based social information. The mere visual presence of accumulated conspecifics (wasp dummies placed on one of the feeders) attracted newcomers to the food sources. Interestingly, however, visual enhancement was not the only decision-biasing factor at the feeding site. In an experimental series where searching wasps had to choose between the experimental feeder at which 3 foragers continuously collected and the control feeder with nine wasp dummies, only 40% of the wasps chose the visually enhanced feeder. This points to the existence of additional mechanisms of local enhancement. The possibility that, in social wasps, recruitment is involved in the exploitation of carbohydrate food sources is discussed.


Social wasps Polybia occidentalis Foraging process Foraging decisions Local enhancement Carbohydrate food sources 



We would like to thank Andreza A. Ribeiro Bonzati and Josiane F. Peres Arantes for many hours of patient help during the experiments, as well as Airton Romero and Reinaldo S. Junior (PCARP) for providing a detailed map of the university campus. We also thank Fernando B. Noll and anonymous reviewers for the critical reading of the manuscript and for helpful comments, and Dirk Louis P. Schorkopf for a valuable discussion on “What actually is recruitment?” This work complies with the current laws of Brazil, where the experiments were conducted, and was supported by grants 06/50809-7 and 06/53839-4 (FAPESP) to M.H., and 02/12540-5 (FAPESP) to F.S.N.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Hrncir
    • 1
    Email author
  • Sidnei Mateus
    • 1
  • Fábio S. Nascimento
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of São PauloRibeirão PretoBrazil
  2. 2.Department of BiologyFederal University of Sergipe, CCBSSão CristovãoBrazil

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