Journal of Insect Behavior

, Volume 15, Issue 6, pp 751–764 | Cite as

Evolution of Swarm Communication in Eusocial Wasps (Hymenoptera: Vespidae)

  • Adam R. Smith
  • Sean O'Donnell
  • Robert L. Jeanne


Eusocial paper wasps, yellowjackets, and hornets (Vespidae) exhibit two modes of colony foundation, primitively eusocial independent founders and advanced eusocial swarm founders. Unlike independent founders, swarmfounding wasps require a means of social communication to coordinate the movement of colony members between nest sites. We employed a phylogeny of paper wasps, yellowjackets, and hornets to test for patterns of correlated evolution between the mode of colony foundation and the presence of sternal exocrine glands. We also reviewed data on worker actions during swarming to determine whether swarm communication behavior was dependent upon gland possession and whether communicative behavior was shared among swarm-founding species. We did not find evidence for an association of sternal glands with swarm founding. Although sternal gland presence differed among swarm-founding species, worker behavior during swarming showed little variation. Workers of nearly all swarm-founding species rub their gasters on objects along swarm routes, independently of the occurrence of sternal glands. Widespread gastral rubbing indicates the use of swarm emigration trail pheromones from a diversity of glandular sources. Transitions from independent to swarm founding have been achieved via diverse pheromonal mechanisms in the Vespidae, while worker communicative behavior is either highly conserved or convergent.

correlated evolution independent founding social behavior swarm founding sternal glands 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Bourke, A. F.G. (1999). Colony size, social complexity and reproductive conflict in social insects. J. Evol. Biol. 12: 245–257.Google Scholar
  2. Carpenter, J. M. (1988). The phylogenetic system of the Stenogastrinae (Hymenoptera: Vespidae). J. N. Y. Entomol. Soc. 96: 140–175.Google Scholar
  3. Carpenter, J. M. (1991). Phylogenetic relationships and the origin of social behavior in the Vespidae. In Ross, K. G., and Mathews, R.W. (eds.), The Social Biology ofWasps, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY, pp. 7–32.Google Scholar
  4. Carpenter, J. M., and Wenzel, J. W. (1999). The relative abundance of swarm-founding social wasps in the Congo Basin (Insecta: Hymenoptera; Vespidae, Polistinae). Nat. Hist. Bull. Ibaraki Univ. 3: 9–14.Google Scholar
  5. Carpenter, J. M., Wenzel, J. W., and Kojima, J. (1996). Synonymy of the genus Occipitalia Richards, 1978, with Clypearia de Saussure, 1854 (Hymenoptera: Vespidae: Polistinae, Epiponini). J. Hym. Res. 5: 157–165.Google Scholar
  6. Chadab, R., and Rettenmeyer, C.W. (1979). Observations on swarm emigrations and dragging behavior by social wasps (Hymenoptera, Vespidae). Psyche 86: 347–352.Google Scholar
  7. Clarke, S. R., Dani, F. R., Jones, G. R., Morgan, E. D., and Turillazzi, S. (1999). Chemical analysis of the swarming trail pheromone of the social wasp Polybia sericea (Hymenoptera: Vespidae). J. Insect Physiol. 45: 877–883.Google Scholar
  8. Dani, F. R., Morgan, E. D., and Turillazzi, S. (1995). Chemical analysis of sternal gland secretion of paper wasp Polistes dominulus (Christ) and its social parasite Polistes sulcifer (Zimmermann) (Hymenoptera: Vespidae). J. Chem. Ecol. 21: 1709–1718.Google Scholar
  9. Dani, F. R., Cannoni, S., Turillazzi, S., and Morgan, E. D. (1996). Ant repellent effect of the sternal gland secretion of Polistes dominulus (Christ) and P. sulcifer (Zimmermann). (Hymenoptera: Vespidae). J. Chem. Ecol. 22: 37–48.Google Scholar
  10. Dani, F. R., Clarke, S. R., Jones G. R., Morgan, D. E., and Dejean, A. (1997). Search for a trail pheromone in a social swarming wasp of the Old World (Polybioides tabidus; Hymenoptera: Vespidae). Proceeding of the C.N.R.S. Jacques Monod ConferenceChemical Communication in Vertebrates and Invertebrates, ” p. 41.Google Scholar
  11. Downing, H. A. (1991). The function and evolution of exocrine glands. In Ross, K. G., and Matthews, R.W. (eds.), The Social Biology ofWasps, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY, pp. 540–569.Google Scholar
  12. Felsenstein, J. (1985). Phylogenies and the comparative method. Am. Nat. 126: 1–25.Google Scholar
  13. Forsyth, A. B. (1978). Studies on the Behavioral Ecology of Polygynous Social Wasps, Ph.D. dissertation, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.Google Scholar
  14. Forsyth, A. B. (1981). Swarming activity of polybiine social wasps (Hymenoptera: Vespidae: Polybiini). Biotropica 13: 93–99.Google Scholar
  15. Francescato, E., Turillazzi, S., and Dejean, A. (1993). Swarming behaviour in Polybioides tabida (Hymenoptera: Vespidae). Actes Coll. Insectes Soc. 8: 121–126.Google Scholar
  16. Harvey, P. H., and Pagel, M. (1991). The Comparative Method in Evolutionary Biology, Oxford University Press, Oxford.Google Scholar
  17. Heithaus, E. R. (1979). Community structure of Neotropical flower visiting bees and wasps: Diversity and phenology. Ecology 60: 190–202.Google Scholar
  18. Hermann, H. R., and Dirks, T. F. (1974). Sternal glands in polistine wasps: morphology and associated behavior. J. Ga. Entomol. Soc. 9: 1–8.Google Scholar
  19. Howard, K. J., Smith, A. R., O'Donnell, S., and Jeanne, R. L. (In Press.) Novel method of swarm emigration by the epiponine wasp, Apoica pallens (Hymenoptera Vespidae). Ethol, Ecol,Evol. Wasp Swarm Communication 763 Google Scholar
  20. Hunt, J. H., Jeanne, R. L., and Keeping, M. G. (1995). Observations on Apoica pallens, a nocturnal Neotropical social wasp (Hymenoptera: Vespidae, Polistinae, Epiponini). Insectes Soc. 42: 223–236.Google Scholar
  21. Itô, Y. (1992). Relocation of nests by swarms and nest reconstruction in late autumn in the primitively eusocial wasp, Ropalidia fasciata, with discussions on the role of swarming. J. Ethol. 10: 109–117.Google Scholar
  22. Jeanne, R. L. (1975). Behavior during swarm movement in Stelopolybia areata (Hymenoptera: Vespidae). Psyche 82: 259–264.Google Scholar
  23. Jeanne, R. L. (1980). Evolution of social behavior in the Vespidae. Annu. Rev. Entomol. 25: 371–396.Google Scholar
  24. Jeanne, R. L. (1981). Chemical communication during swarm emigration in the social wasp Polybia sericea (Olivier). Anim. Behav. 29: 102–113.Google Scholar
  25. Jeanne, R. L. (1991). The swarm-founding Polistinae. In Ross, K.G., and Matthews, R.W. (eds.), The Social Biology of Wasps, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY, pp. 191–231.Google Scholar
  26. Jeanne, R. L., and Post, D. C. (1982). Richards' gland and associated cuticular modifications in social wasps of the genus Polybia Lepeletier (Hymenoptera: Vespidae: Polistinae: Polybiini). Insectes Soc. 29: 280–294.Google Scholar
  27. Jeanne, R. L., Downing, H. A., and Post, D. C. (1983). Morphology and function of sternal glands in polistine wasps (Hymenoptera: Vespidae). Zoomorphology 103: 149–164.Google Scholar
  28. Karsai, I., and Wenzel, J. W. (1998). Productivity, individual-level and colony-level flexibility, and organization of work as consequences of colony size. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 95: 8665–8669.Google Scholar
  29. Keeping, M. G. (1990). Rubbing behavior and morphology of van der Vecht's gland in Belonogaster petiolata (Hymenoptera: Vespidae). J. Insect Behav. 3: 85–104.Google Scholar
  30. Kojima, J. (1994). Behavior during artificially induced swarm emigration in an OldWorld polistine wasp, Ropalidia romandi (Hymenoptera: Vespidae). J. Ethol. 12: 1–8.Google Scholar
  31. Kojima, J., and van Achterberg, K. (1997). Social wasps collected by Malaise trapping in Southeast Asia, with a note on relative abundance of swarm-founding species (Insecta: Hymenoptera: Vespidae). Nat. Hist. Bull. Ibaraki Univ. 1: 1–13.Google Scholar
  32. Litte, M. (1981). Social biology of the polistine wasp Mischocyttarus labiatus: Survival in a Colombian rain forest. Smithson. Contrib. Zool. 327: 1–27.Google Scholar
  33. London, K. B., and Jeanne, R. L. (2000). The interaction between mode of colony founding, nest architecture and ant defense in polistine wasps. Ethol. Ecol. Evol. 12: 13–25.Google Scholar
  34. Maddison, W. P. (1990). Amethod for testing the correlated evolution of two binary characters: Ar gains or losses concentrated on certain branches of a phylogenetic tree? Evolution 44: 539–557.Google Scholar
  35. Maddison, W. P., and Maddison, D. R. (1992). MacClade: Analysis of Phylogeny and Character Evolution, Sinauer and Associates, Sunderland, MA.Google Scholar
  36. Martins, E. P., and Hansen, T. F. (1996). The statistical analysis of interspecific data: A review and evaluation of phylogenetic comparative methods. In Martins, E. P. (ed.), Phylogenies and the Comparative Method in Animal Behavior, Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 22–75.Google Scholar
  37. Matsuura, M. (1991). Vespa and Provespa. In Ross, K. G., and Matthews, R. W. (eds.), The Social Biology of Wasps, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY, pp. 232–262.Google Scholar
  38. Matsuura, M. (1999). Size and composition of swarming colonies in Provespa anomala (Hymenoptera, Vespidae), a nocturnal social wasp. Insectes Soc. 46: 219–223.Google Scholar
  39. Naumann, M. G. (1975). Swarming behavior: Evidence for communication in social wasps. Science 189: 642–644.Google Scholar
  40. Noirot, C., and Quennedey, A. (1974). Fine structure of insect epidermal glands. Annu. Rev. Entomol. 19: 61–80.Google Scholar
  41. Noirot, C., and Quennedey, A. (1991). Glands, gland cells, glandular units: Some comments on terminology and classification. Ann. Soc. Entomol. Fr. (N.S.) 27: 123–128.Google Scholar
  42. O'Donnell, S. (1992). Off-nest gastral rubbing observed in Mischocyttarus immarginatus (Hymenoptera: Vespidae) in Costa Rica. Sphecos 23: 5.Google Scholar
  43. O'Donnell, S., and Joyce, F. J. (2001). Seasonality and colony composition in the tropical eusocial wasp Mischocyttarus mastigophorus Richards (Hymenoptera: Vespidae). Biotropica 33: 468–473.Google Scholar
  44. Raposo-Filho, J. R., Calloni, C., and Delfino, G. (1994). Structural and ultrastructural features of the glands in the VI and VII gastral sternites of female Mischocyttarus (Kappa) atramentarius Zik´an 1949 (Hymenoptera Vespidae). Ethol. Ecol. Evol. Special Issue 3: 47–52.Google Scholar
  45. Schmitz, J., and Moritz, R. F. A. (1998). Molecular phylogeny of Vespidae (Hymenoptera) and the evolution of sociality in wasps. Mol. Phylogenet. Evol. 9: 183–191.Google Scholar
  46. Smith, A., O'Donnell, S., and Jeanne, R. L. (2001). Correlated evolution of colony defense and social structure:Acomparative analysis in eusocial wasps (Hymenoptera:Vespidae). Evol. Ecol. Res. 3: 331–344.Google Scholar
  47. Spurr, A. R. (1969). A low viscosity epoxy resin embedding medium for electron microscopy. J. Ultrastruct. Res. 26: 31–43.Google Scholar
  48. Wenzel, J. W., and Carpenter, J. M. (1994). Comparing methods: Adaptive traits and tests of adaptation. In Eggleton, P., and Vane-Wright, R. I. (eds.), Phylogenetics and Ecology, Academic Press, London pp. 79–101.Google Scholar
  49. West-Eberhard, M. J. (1982). The nature and evolution of swarming in tropical social wasps (Vespidae, Polistinae, Polybiini). In Jaisson, P. (ed.), Social Insects in the Tropics, Vol. 1, Universite de Paris-Nord, Paris, pp. 97–128.Google Scholar
  50. West-Eberhard, M. J. (1983). Sexual selection, social competition, and speciation. Q. Rev. Biol. 58: 155–183.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Adam R. Smith
    • 1
  • Sean O'Donnell
    • 1
  • Robert L. Jeanne
    • 2
  1. 1.Animal Behavior Area, Department of PsychologyUniversity of WashingtonSeattle
  2. 2.Department of EntomologyUniversity of WisconsinMadison

Personalised recommendations