Use of terrestrial chemical trails for nest orientation in an open nesting wasp, Dolichovespula saxonica F.
The long-cheeked wasp Dolichovespula saxonica typically constructs exposed nests which can be reached by flying. Usually foragers do not walk on substrates in the close vicinity of the nests as cavity breeding wasps do (Steinmetz et al., 2002). Unexpectedly, when forced to walk outside the nest instead of flying in an artificial tunnel system, D. saxonica foragers lay a terrestrial trail and use it for orientation in the nest area in our experiments. 41% of the foragers followed the trail in a direction they were not accustomed to. We suggest that the foragers have employed the same orientation cues normally used for orientation in the close vicinity of the nest when approaching a free-hanging nest by flying, for example nest odour. Nest odour substances may have been transferred to the substrate as a trail as a consequence of foragers walking through the tunnels.
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