Advertisement

Insectes Sociaux

, Volume 62, Issue 4, pp 455–463 | Cite as

The stinging response of the common wasp (Vespula vulgaris): plasticity and variation in individual aggressiveness

  • D. SantoroEmail author
  • S. Hartley
  • D. M. Suckling
  • P. J. Lester
Research Article

Abstract

We studied the variability and plasticity of individual aggressiveness in a social insect, describing and quantifying the sting extension response (SER) of the common wasp Vespula vulgaris. As a proxy for individual aggressiveness we measured the SER of individual wasps, scoring the extent by which the sting was extruded in response to a mild electric shock (7.5 or 12 V for 2 s) on a scale from 0 to 1. We found that wasps vary greatly in their stinging propensity and aggression thresholds and that individuals change their SER during their life. Extremely aggressive or docile phenotypes, showing at first consistent mutual differences on different days, tended to converge over time and developed comparable SER responses later in their life. Older individuals tended to be more aggressive. Wasp size was not related to the stinging phenotype. Wasp foragers had a less pronounced sting extension than individuals previously involved in nest defense. For the same individual, the aggressive response was proportional to the intensity of the negative stimulus. We discuss the advantages of the SER bioassay as a tool to measure individual aggressiveness, plasticity and inter-individual variability in the Aculeata group, and its great potential in comparative and learning studies.

Keywords

Behavior Inter-individual variability Sting extension Aculeata Apis mellifera 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We thank Lloyd Stringer for his help during nest excavation, Flore Mas and Rafael Barbieri for insightful advice during data collection and analysis, Michael Breed, Kevin Loope and one anonymous reviewer for their suggestions. This work was funded by Victoria University of Wellington.

Supplementary material

40_2015_424_MOESM1_ESM.docx (482 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 482 kb)

References

  1. Akre RD, Garnett WB, Mac Donald JF, Greene A, Landolt P (1976) Behavior and colony development of Vespula pensylvanica and V. atropilosa (Hymenoptera: Vespidae). J Kansas Entomol Soc 49:63–84Google Scholar
  2. Archer J (1988) The behavioral biology of aggression. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  3. Archer ME (2012) Vespine wasps of the world—behavior, ecology & taxonomy of the Vespinae. Siri Scientific Press, CastletonGoogle Scholar
  4. Balderrama N, Diaz H, Sequeda A, Núñez J, Maldonado H (1987) Behavioral and pharmacological analysis of the stinging response in Africanized and Italian bees. In: Menzel R (ed) Neurobiology and behavior of honeybees. Springer, Berlin, pp 121–122CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Balderrama N, Núñez J, Guerrieri F, Giurfa M (2002) Different functions of two alarm substances in the honeybee. J Comp Physiol A 188:485–491CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Beshers SN, Fewell JH (2001) Models of division of labor in social insects. Annu Rev Entomol 46:413–440CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Bolnick DI, Svanbäck R, Fordyce JA et al (2003) The ecology of individuals: incidence and implications of individual specialization. Am Nat 161:1–28CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Bolnick DI, Amarasekare P, Araújo M et al (2011) Why intraspecific trait variation matters in community ecology. Trends Ecol Evol 26:183–192PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Breed MD, Guzman-Novoa E, Hunt GJ (2004) Defensive behavior of honey bees: organization, genetics, and comparisons with other bees. Annu Rev Entomol 49:271–298CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Buck M, Marshall SA, Cheung DKB (2008) Identification atlas of the Vespidae (Hymenoptera, Aculeata) of the northeastern Nearctic region. Can J Arthropod Identif 5(5). doi: 10.3752/cjai.2008.05
  11. Crozier RH, Fjerdingstad EJ (2001) Polyandry in social Hymenoptera—disunity in diversity? Ann Zool Fennici 38:267–285Google Scholar
  12. Dingemanse NJ, Wolf M (2013) Between-individual differences in behavioral plasticity within populations: causes and consequences. Anim Behav 85:1031–1039CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Edwards R (1980) Social wasps—their biology and control. Rentokil Limited, East GrinsteadGoogle Scholar
  14. Gaul AT (1952) The awakening and diurnal flight activities of vespine wasps. Proc R Entomol Soc Lond Ser A 27:33–38Google Scholar
  15. Goodisman MAD, Kovacs JL, Hoffman EA (2007) The significance of multiple mating in the social wasp Vespula maculifrons. Evolution 61:2260–2267CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Greene (1991) Dolichovespula and Vespula. In: Ross KG, Matthews RW (eds) The social biology of wasps. Cornell University Press, IthacaGoogle Scholar
  17. Grinsted L, Pruitt JN, Settepani V, Bilde T (2013) Individual personalities shape task differentiation in a social spider. Proc R Soc B 280:20131407. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2013.1407 PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Guerrieri FJ, D’Ettorre P (2008) The mandible opening response: quantifying aggression elicited by chemical cues in ants. J Exp Biol 211:1109–1113CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Hanna C, Cook ED, Thompson AR, Dare LE, Palaski AL, Foote D, Goodisman MAD (2013) Colony social structure in native and invasive populations of the social wasp Vespula pensylvanica. Biol Invasions 16:283–294CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hogendoorn K, Velthuis HHW (1999) Task allocation and reproductive skew in social mass provisioning carpenter bees in relation to age and size. Insect Soc 46:198–207CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hunt J (2007) The evolution of social wasps. Oxford University Press, OxfordCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. IBM Corp. (2012) IBM SPSS Statistics for Windows, Version 21.0. Armonk, NY: IBM CorpGoogle Scholar
  23. Jeanne RL (1988) Interindividual behavioral variability in social insects. Westview Press, BoulderGoogle Scholar
  24. Jeanne RL, Williams N, Yandell B (1992) Age polyethism and defense in a tropical social wasp (Hymenoptera: Vespidae). J Insect Behav 5:211–227CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Jeanson R, Weidenmüller A (2013) Interindividual variability in social insects—proximate causes and ultimate consequences. Biol Rev Camb Philos Soc 89:671–687CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Kolmes SA, Fergusson-Kolmes LA (1989) Stinging behavior and residual value of worker honey bees (Apis mellifera). J New York Entomol Soc 97:218–231Google Scholar
  27. Lenoir J-C, Laloi D, Dechaume-Moncharmont F-X, Solignac M, Pham MH (2006) Intra-colonial variation of the sting extension response in the honey bee Apis mellifera. Insect Soc 53:80–85CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. London KB, Jeanne RL (1996) Alarm in a wasp-wasp nesting association: do members signal cross-specifically? Insect Soc 43:211–215CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. London KB, Jeanne RL (2003) Effects of colony size and stage of development on defense response by the swarm-founding wasp Polybia occidentalis. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 54:539–546CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Loope KJ (2014) Why do vespine wasp workers commit matricide? In: 17th Congress of the International Union for the Study of Social Insects (IUSSI), Cairns, Australia, 13–18 July 2014Google Scholar
  31. MacNulty DR, Smith DW, Mech LD, Eberly LE (2009) Body size and predatory performance in wolves: is bigger better? J Anim Ecol 78:532–539CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. Matsuura M, Yamane S (1990) Biology of the vespine wasps. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  33. Monceau K, Bonnard O, Thiéry D (2013) Relationship between the age of Vespa velutina workers and their defensive behavior established from colonies maintained in the laboratory. Insect Soc 60:437–444CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Moreyra S, D’Adamo P, Lozada M (2014) The influence of past experience on wasp choice related to foraging behavior. Insect Sci 21:759–764CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. O’Donnell S, Jeanne RL (1995) The roles of body size and dominance in division of labor among workers of the eusocial wasp Polybia occidentalis (Olivier) (Hymenoptera: Vespidae). J Kansas Entomol Soc 68:43–50Google Scholar
  36. Oldroyd BP, Fewell JH (2007) Genetic diversity promotes homeostasis in insect colonies. Trends Ecol Evol 22:408–413CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. Olson EJ (2000) Parachartergus fraternus (Gribodo) (Hymenoptera: Vespidae: Polistinae) uses venom when taking caterpillar prey. Psyche 103:85–93CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Parrish M (1984) Factors influencing aggression between foraging yellowjacket wasps, Vespula spp. (Hymenoptera: Vespidae). Ann Entomol Soc Am 77:306–311CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Paxton RJ, Sakamoto CH, Rugiga FCN (1994) Modification of honey bee (Apis mellifera L.) stinging behavior by within-colony environment and age. J Apicult Res 33:75–82Google Scholar
  40. Pinter-Wollman N (2012) Personality in social insects: how does worker personality determine colony personality? Curr Zool 58:580–588Google Scholar
  41. Pinter-Wollman N, Hubler J (2012) How is activity distributed among and within tasks in Temnothorax ants? Behav Ecol Sociobiol 66:1407–1420CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Potter NB (1964) A study on the biology of the common wasp, Vespula vulgaris L., with special reference to the foraging behaviour. Ph.D. dissertation, University of BristolGoogle Scholar
  43. Raveret Richter M (2000) Social wasp (Hymenoptera: Vespidae) foraging behavior. Annu Rev Entomol 45:121–150CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  44. Reed HC, Landolt PJ (2000) Application of alarm pheromone to targets by southern yellowjackets (Hymenoptera: Vespidae). Fla Entomol 83:193–196CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Robinson GE (1992) Regulation of division of labor in insect societies. Annu Rev Entomol 37:637–665CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  46. Ross KG, Matthews RW (1991) The social biology of wasps. Cornell University Press, IthacaGoogle Scholar
  47. R Development Core Team (2012) R: a language and environment for statistical computing. doi: ISBN 3-900051-07-0Google Scholar
  48. Santoro D, Polidori C, Asís JD, Tormos J (2011) Complex interactions between components of individual prey specialization affect mechanisms of niche variation in a grasshopper-hunting wasp. J Anim Ecol 80:1123–1133CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  49. Shettleworth SJ (2010) Cognition, evolution and behavior, 2nd edn. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  50. Shorter JR, Rueppell O (2011) A review on self-destructive defense behaviors in social insects. Insect Soc 59:1–10CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Spaethe J, Brockmann A, Halbig C, Tautz J (2007) Size determines antennal sensitivity and behavioral threshold to odors in bumblebee workers. Naturwissenschaften 94:733–739CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  52. Spradbery PJ (1972) A biometric study of seasonal variation in worker wasps (Hymenoptera: Vespidae). J Ent (A) 47:61–69Google Scholar
  53. Spradbery PJ (1973) Wasps—an account of the biology and natural history of solitary and social wasps. University of Washington Press, SeattleGoogle Scholar
  54. Strassmann J (2001) The rarity of multiple mating by females in the social Hymenoptera. Insect Soc 48:1–13CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Theraulaz G, Bonabeau E, Denuebourg J-N (1998) Response threshold reinforcements and division of labor in insect societies. Proc R Soc B 265:327–332PubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Togni O, Giannotti E (2010) Colony defense behavior of the primitively eusocial wasp, Mischocyttarus cerberus is related to age. J Insect Sci 10:1–14CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Uribe-Rubio JL (2013) Genotype and task influence stinging response thresholds of honeybee (Apis mellifera L.) workers of African and European descent. Open J Ecol 3:279–283CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Uribe-Rubio JL, Guzmán-Novoa E, Vázquez-Peláez CG, Hunt GJ (2008) Genotype, task specialization, and nest environment influence the stinging response thresholds of individual Africanized and European honeybees to electrical stimulation. Behav Genet 38:93–100CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  59. Vergoz V, Roussel E, Sandoz J-C, Giurfa M (2007) Aversive learning in honeybees revealed by the olfactory conditioning of the sting extension reflex. PLoS One 2:e288. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0000288 PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  60. Vetter RS, Visscher PK, Camazine S (1999) Mass envenomations by honey bees and wasps. West J Med 170:223–227PubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  61. Violle C, Enquist B, McGill B (2012) The return of the variance: intraspecific variability in community ecology. Trends Ecol Evol 27:244–252CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  62. Wolf M, Weissing F (2012) Animal personalities: consequences for ecology and evolution. Trends Ecol Evol 27:452–461CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© International Union for the Study of Social Insects (IUSSI) 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • D. Santoro
    • 1
    Email author
  • S. Hartley
    • 1
  • D. M. Suckling
    • 2
  • P. J. Lester
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Biological SciencesVictoria University of WellingtonWellingtonNew Zealand
  2. 2.The New Zealand Institute for Plant and Food ResearchChristchurchNew Zealand

Personalised recommendations