Homing abilities of the tropical primitively eusocial paper wasp Ropalidia marginata
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Compared to our extensive knowledge about the navigation and homing abilities of ants and bees, we know rather little about these phenomena in social wasps. Here, we report the homing abilities of the tropical primitively eusocial wasp Ropalidia marginata and the factors that affect their homing success. To determine from how far these wasps can return to their nests, we transported foragers blindfold and released them at gradually increasing distances from their nests in four cardinal directions. Their homing success was determined by checking their presence on their nests on three consecutive nights. All foragers (56 individuals, 115 releases) returned back from an area of 0.73 ± 0.25 km2 on the day of release (minimal homing area), whereas 83.8 % of the foragers (217 individuals, 420 releases) returned when we enlarged the area of release to 6.22 ± 0.66 km2 around their nests (maximal homing area). Of 66 releases, no wasps returned from beyond the maximal homing area. The minimal homing area might be familiar to the foragers because they probably routinely forage in this area and the maximal homing area represents the maximum distances from which the wasps are capable of returning to their nests, with or without familiarity.
KeywordsHoming Minimal homing area Maximal homing area Social wasp Ropalidia marginata
We thank the Department of Science and Technology, the Department of Biotechnology, and the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India for financial assistance. SM and RG designed the study, SM conducted the study and RG and SM cowrote the paper. We thank Sandeep Pulla, for suggesting the use of cubic spline to draw the boundaries of the homing areas and Anjan Nandi for guidance in data analysis and both for their comments on the manuscript. All experiments reported here comply with the current laws of the country in which they were performed. This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors. The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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