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Gastral drumming: a nest-based food-recruitment signal in a social wasp

Abstract

Many social insect species produce signals that either recruit foragers to a specific food source or simply activate more nestmates to become foragers. Both are means of enhancing resource exploitation by increasing the number of individuals devoted to gathering profitable resources. Gastral drumming (GD) has been documented in several species of yellowjackets and hornets (Vespidae: Vespinae). It has been hypothesized that it is a hunger signal, but there is little empirical evidence to support this claim. An alternative hypothesis is that GD recruits workers to forage for food. Here, we report the results of a test between the hunger-signal and food-recruitment hypotheses in the German yellowjacket wasp, Vespula germanica. We show that the rate of performance of GD decreased when colonies were deprived of food and increased when supplemental food was provided. Playback of GD caused increased rates of (1) movement in the nest, (2) trophallaxis, and (3) worker departures from the nest. Together, these results support the conclusion that GD is not a hunger signal as previously asserted but instead is a nest-based food-recruitment signal, the first to be reported for a social wasp.

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Acknowledgements

We would like to thank Debra Scheibinger, Scott Buchanan, Ted Lee, Rosie and Skip Skibba, and Ted Waddington for allowing us to excavate nests from their properties. Tom Dettinger and Matthew Moore built the nest boxes used to house the yellowjacket colonies. We would also like to thank Emily Berglund, Jennifer Bernick, Evan Brus, Nada Elgamal, Danielle Gajewski, Dane Gellerup, Maggie Joyce, Laura Nettekoven, Dane Schalk, Heather Reichert, and Woo Young Yoon for their assistance in collecting data. We thank James Nieh for loan of the accelerometer and amplifier. Erik Nordheim, Laura Dyer, and J. Alex Brashears provided comments to help improve the manuscript.

Funding

This research was supported by UW-Madison Hatch (USDA) project no. 4961 to Robert L. Jeanne, by the UW-Madison College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, by LaGuardia Community College, by PSC-CUNY, and by a John T. Emlen research grant from the UW-Madison Zoology Department to Benjamin J. Taylor.

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Correspondence to Benjamin J. Taylor.

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Communicated by: Sven Thatje

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Taylor, B.J., Jeanne, R.L. Gastral drumming: a nest-based food-recruitment signal in a social wasp. Sci Nat 105, 23 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00114-018-1550-4

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00114-018-1550-4

Keywords

  • Foraging
  • Recruitment
  • Vibrational communication
  • Social cues
  • Vespula germanica