Population consequences of huge nesting aggregations ofRopalidia plebeiana (Hymenoptera: Vespidae)
Nest survival rates and reproductive rates of females of the Australian paper wasp,Ropalidia plebeiana, in nest aggregations under a concrete bridge were studied. The annual colony cycle commenced in August with the reutilization of old nests and by the founding of new nests, mainly by associations of foundresses. Distribution patterns of the number of foundresses per nest was nearly random on new nests while contagious on old nests. About one-third of the increase in number of nest was achieved by dividing large, old nests and two-thirds by founding new nests. Nest survival rates for old nests (August to April) and new nests (November to April) were 89.6% and 88.8% respectively, far higher rates than those of other polistine wasps so far reported. The numbers of nests and reproductive females increased during a colony cycle by 2.30 and 10.98 times, respectively. Thus, huge aggregations of nests are probably beneficial for this species by enabling the realization of high reproductive rates. We could find no density-dependent effect in nest growth rate or production of female reproductives. Ratio of cells parasitized by ichneumonid wasps was low. Nests in the central part of an aggregation were prasitized at significantly lower rates than nests on the periphery or scattered nests outside a dense aggregation, suggesting a selfish herd effect.
KeywordsConcrete Bridge Nest Size Social Wasp Percent Parasitism High Reproductive Rate
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