Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 43, Issue 4–5, pp 327–331 | Cite as

Dominance and polyethism in the eusocial wasp Mischocyttarus mastigophorus (Hymenoptera: Vespidae)

  • Sean O'Donnell
Original article


Dominance interactions affected patterns of non-reproductive division of labor (polyethism) in the eusocial wasp Mischocyttarus mastigophorus. Socially dominant individuals foraged for food (nectar and insect prey) at lower rates than subordinate individuals. In contrast, dominant wasps performed most of the foraging for the wood pulp used in nest construction. Social dominance also affected partitioning of materials collected by foragers when they returned to the nest. Wood pulp loads were never shared with nest mates, while food loads, especially insect prey, were often partitioned with other wasps. Dominant individuals on the nest were more likely to take food from arriving foragers than subordinate individuals. The role of dominance interactions in regulating polyethism has evolved in the eusocial paper wasps (Polistinae). Both specialization by foragers and task partitioning have increased from basal genera (independent-founding wasps, including Mischo-cyttarus spp.) to more derived genera (swarm-founding Epiponini). Dominance interactions do not regulate forager specialization or task partitioning in epiponines. I hypothesize that these changes in polyethism were enabled by the evolution of increased colony size in the Epiponini.

Key words Division of labor Foraging Social insects Task partitioning Task specialization Eusocial wasp 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sean O'Donnell
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Psychology 351525, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA e-mail:, Tel.: +1-206-5432315, Fax: +1-206-6853157US

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