Journal of Comparative Physiology A

, Volume 203, Issue 11, pp 915–927 | Cite as

Homing in a tropical social wasp: role of spatial familiarity, motivation and age

  • Souvik MandalEmail author
  • Anindita Brahma
  • Raghavendra Gadagkar
Original Paper


We captured foragers of the tropical social wasp Ropalidia marginata from their nests and displaced them at different distances and directions. Wasps displaced within their probable foraging grounds returned to their nests on the day of release although they oriented randomly upon release; however, wasps fed before release returned sooner, displaying nest-ward orientation. When displaced to places far from their nests, thus expected to be unfamiliar, only a third returned on the day of release showing nest-ward orientation; others oriented randomly and either returned on subsequent days or never. When confined within mosquito-net tents since eclosion and later released to places close to their nests (but unfamiliar), even fed wasps oriented randomly, and only older wasps returned, taking longer time. Thus, contrary to insects inhabiting less-featured landscapes, R. marginata foragers appear to have thorough familiarity with their foraging grounds that enables them to orient and home efficiently after passive displacement. Their initial orientation is, however, determined by an interaction of the information acquired from surrounding landscape and their physiological motivation. With age, they develop skills to home from unfamiliar places. Homing behaviour in insects appears to be influenced by evolutionarily conserved mechanisms and the landscape in which they have evolved.


Ropalidia marginata Social wasp Hymenoptera Spatial familiarity Homing 



We thank Kavita Isvaran and Diptarup Nandi for their help with statistical analyses, and Thomas S. Collett for many helpful discussions. We thank the Department of Science and Technology, Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Environment and Forests, and Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, Government of India, for financial assistance (to RG).

Author contribution

SM and RG designed the study, SM and AB conducted the study, SM analysed the data and SM and RG co-wrote the paper.

Compliance with ethical standards

Ethical standards

This article does not contain any study with human participants performed by any of the authors. All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

359_2017_1202_MOESM1_ESM.docx (2.7 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 2745 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Biological Sciences, Centre for Ecological SciencesIndian Institute of ScienceBangaloreIndia

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