Nestmate recognition in three species of stenogastrine wasps (Hymenoptera, Vespidae)
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The capacity to recognise a conspecific intruder was investigated in Parischnogaster jacobsoni, Liostenogaster flavolineata and L. vechti, three species of primitively social wasps of the subfamily Stenogastrinae. Results of behavioural experiments carried out in the field showed that females of all three species react pacifically if presented with female nestmates, but aggressively reject an intruder from a conspecific colony. As L. flavolineata and L. vechti both build large clusters of nests, often very close to each other, the recognition capacity among females from different nests, but in the same conspecific cluster, was also investigated. Females of both species were more aggressive towards females from a different colony in the same cluster than towards their female nestmates. Additional experiments on L. flavolineata showed that there was no difference in reaction towards females from colonies nearer or further from the tested colony but within the same cluster, nor towards females from a different cluster. The capacity to recognise an alien conspecific nest containing immature brood was investigated in P. jacobsoni. Adult females of this species, invited to land on an alien nest which had experimentally been exchanged for their own, accepted the new nest and partially destroyed the immature brood. The behaviour of the females when they land on an alien nest, however, suggests that they do recognise the nest as foreign. Acceptance of foreign nests coupled with low immature brood destruction is probably due to the high energetic costs of egg-deposition and larval rearing in stenogastrine wasps.
These results suggest that nestmate recognition in these wasps is very efficient, even though they belong to the most primitive subfamily of social wasps.
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