, Volume 97, Issue 11, pp 1017–1022 | Cite as

The cues have it; nest-based, cue-mediated recruitment to carbohydrate resources in a swarm-founding social wasp

  • Teresa I. SchuellerEmail author
  • Erik V. Nordheim
  • Benjamin J. Taylor
  • Robert L. Jeanne
Short Communication


This study explores whether or not foragers of the Neotropical swarm-founding wasp Polybia occidentalis use nest-based recruitment to direct colony mates to carbohydrate resources. Recruitment allows social insect colonies to rapidly exploit ephemeral resources, an ability especially advantageous to species such as P. occidentalis, which store nectar and prey in their nests. Although recruitment is often defined as being strictly signal mediated, it can also occur via cue-mediated information transfer. Previous studies indicated that P. occidentalis employs local enhancement, a type of cue-mediated recruitment in which the presence of conspecifics at a site attracts foragers. This recruitment is resource-based, and as such, is a blunt recruitment tool, which does not exclude non-colony mates. We therefore investigated whether P. occidentalis also employs a form of nest-based recruitment. A scented sucrose solution was applied directly to the nest. This mimicked a scented carbohydrate resource brought back by employed foragers, but, as foragers were not allowed to return to the nest with the resource, there was no possibility for on-nest recruitment behavior. Foragers were offered two dishes—one containing the test scent and the other an alternate scent. Foragers chose the test scent more often, signifying that its presence in the nest induces naïve foragers to search for it off-nest. P. occidentalis, therefore, employs a form of nest-based recruitment to carbohydrate resources that is mediated by a cue, the presence of a scented resource in the nest.


Polybia occidentalis Recruitment Foraging behavior Communication Signals Cues 



We express sincere gratitude to the Hagnauer family and the Centro Rescate Las Pumas for generously allowing us to conduct research on their properties. This study would not have been possible without the field assistance of Luis Alonso Moncada Duran, José Manuel León III, and Enrique Alejandro León. We are grateful to Peter Crump for valuable statistical assistance. The comments of three anonymous reviewers led to significant improvements in the manuscript. Research supported by a NSF predoctoral fellowship to TIS, a John Jefferson Davis Travel Award, Department of Zoology, University of Wisconsin–Madison to TIS, and by the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, University of Wisconsin–Madison.


  1. Anderson C, McShea DW (2001) Individual versus social complexity, with particular reference to ant colonies. Biol Rev Camb Phil Soc 76(2):211–237CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. D’Adamo P, Lozada M (2005) Conspecific and food attraction in the wasp Vespula germanica (Hymenoptera: Vespidae), and their possible contributions to control. Ann Entomol Soc Am 98:236–240CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Dawkins MS (1995) Unravelling animal behaviour. Wiley, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  4. Dornhaus A, Chittka L (2004) Information flow and regulation of foraging activity in bumble bees (Bombus spp.). Apidologie 35:183–192CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Hrncir M, Mateus S, Nascimento FS (2007) Exploitation of carbohydrate food sources in Polybia occidentalis: social cues influence foraging decisions in swarm-founding wasps. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 61(6):975–983CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Hunt JH, Rossi AM, Holmberg NJ, Smith SR, Sherman WR (1998) Nutrients in social wasp (Hymenoptera: Vespidae, Polistinae) honey. Ann Entomol Soc Am 91:466–472Google Scholar
  7. Jandt JM, Jeanne RL (2005) German yellowjacket (Vespula germanica) foragers use odors inside the nest to find carbohydrate food sources. Ethology 111:641–651CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Jeanne RL (1991) The swarm-founding Polistinae. In: Ross KG, Matthews RW (eds) The social biology of wasps. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, pp 191–231Google Scholar
  9. Jeanne RL (2003) Social complexity in the Hymenoptera, with special attention to the wasps. In: Kikuchi T, Azuma N, Higashi S (eds) Genes, behaviors and evolution of social insects, proceedings of the XIVth Congress of the IUSSI, Sapporo, Japan, 2002nd edn. Hokkaido University Press, Sapporo, pp 81–130Google Scholar
  10. Jeanne RL, Taylor BJ (2009) Foraging in Social Wasps. In: Jarau S, Hrncir M (eds) Food exploitation by social insects: ecological, behavioral, and theoretical approaches (contemporary topics in entomology). Taylor & Francis, Boca Raton, pp 53–79Google Scholar
  11. Kojima J (1996) Colony cycle of an Australian swarm-founding paper wasp, Ropalidia romandi (Hymenoptera: Vespidae). Insectes Soc 43:411–420CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Leela NK, Vipin TM (2008) Aniseed. In: Parthasarathy VA, Chempakam B, Zachariah TJ (eds) Chemistry of spices. CABI, Wallingford, pp 331–341CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Lehner PN (1996) Handbook of ethological methods. Cambridge Univ. Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  14. Lloyd JE (1983) Bioluminescence and communication in insects. Annu Rev Entomol 28:131–160CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Molet M, Chittka L, Raine NE (2009) How floral odours are learned inside the bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) nest. Naturwissenschaften 96:213–219CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Nieh JC (2004) Recruitment communication in stingless bees (Hymenoptera, Apidae, Meliponini). Apidologie 35:159–182CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Ono M, Igarashi T, Ohno E, Sasaki M (1995) Unusual thermal defense by a honeybee against mass attack by hornets. Nature 377:334–336CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Otte D (1974) Effects and functions in the evolution of signaling systems. Annu Rev Ecol Syst 5:385–417CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Overmyer SL, Jeanne RL (1998) Recruitment to food by the German yellowjacket, Vespula germanica. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 42:17–21CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Parrish MD, Fowler HG (1983) Contrasting foraging related behaviours in two sympatric wasps (Vespula maculifrons and V. germanica). Ecol Entomol 8:185–190CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Raveret Richter M, Tisch VL (1999) Resource choice of social wasps: influence of presence, size and species of resident wasps. Insectes Soc 46:131–136CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Renner MA, Nieh JC (2008) Bumble bee olfactory information flow and contact-based foraging activation. Insectes Soc 55:417–424CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Seeley TD (1989) The honey bee colony as a superorganism. Am Sci 77:546–553Google Scholar
  24. Seeley TD (1995) The wisdom of the hive: the social physiology of honey bee colonies. Harvard Univ Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  25. Seeley TD (1998) Thoughts of information and integration in honey bee colonies. Apidologie 29:68–80CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Shafir S (1996) Color discrimination conditioning of a wasp, Polybia occidentalis (Hymenoptera: Vespidae). Biotropica 28(2):243–251CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Sonnentag PJ, Jeanne RL (2009) Initiation of absconding-swarm emigration in the social wasp Polybia occidentalis. J Insect Sci 9:11CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Sugden EA, McAllen RL (1994) Observations on foraging, population and nest biology of the Mexican honey wasp, Brachygastra mellifica (Say) in Texas (Vespidae: Polybiinae). J Kans Entomol Soc 67:141–155Google Scholar
  29. von Frisch K (1967) The dance language and orientation of bees. The Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  30. Wilson EO (1971) The insect societies. Harvard University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Teresa I. Schueller
    • 1
    Email author
  • Erik V. Nordheim
    • 2
  • Benjamin J. Taylor
    • 3
  • Robert L. Jeanne
    • 1
  1. 1.Departments of Entomology and ZoologyUniversity of WisconsinMadisonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Statistics and Forest and Wildlife EcologyMadisonUSA
  3. 3.Department of ZoologyUniversity of WisconsinMadisonUSA

Personalised recommendations