Polistes

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Polistes
Wasp May 2008-11.jpg
Polistes dominula
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Vespidae
Subfamily: Polistinae
Tribe: Polistini
Lepeletier, 1836
Genus: Polistes
Latreille, 1802
Type species
Polistes gallicus
Linnaeus, 1767 [1]

Wasps of the cosmopolitan genus Polistes (the only genus in the tribe Polistini) are the most familiar of the polistine wasps, and are the most common type of paper wasp in North America. It is also the single largest genus within the family Vespidae, with over 300 recognized species and subspecies. Their innate preferences for nest-building sites leads them to commonly build nests on human habitation, where they can be very unwelcome; although generally not aggressive, they can be provoked into defending their nests. All species are predatory, and they may consume large numbers of caterpillars, in which respect they are generally considered beneficial. The European paper wasp, Polistes dominula, was introduced into the US about 1981 and has quickly spread throughout most of the country, in most cases replacing native species within a few years. This species is very commonly mistaken for a yellowjacket, as it is black, strongly marked with yellow, and quite different from the native North American species of Polistes. Polistes wasps can be identified by their characteristic flight; their long legs dangle below their bodies, which are also more slender than a yellowjacket.[2]

Life cycle[edit]

The general life cycle of Polistes can be divided into four phases:[3]

  1. Founding (or pre-emergence) phase
  2. Worker phase
  3. Reproductive phase
  4. Intermediate phase

The founding stage begins in the spring when a solitary female (the "foundress") or a small group of related females initiates the construction of a nest. The wasps begin by fashioning a petiole, a short stalk which will connect the new nest to a substrate (often the eave of a house or outbuilding), and building a single brood cell at the end of it. Further cells are added laterally in a hexagonal pattern, each cell surrounded by six others. Although nests can achieve impressive sizes, they almost always maintain a basic shape: petiolated (stellocyttarous), single-combed, unprotected, and open (gymnodomous).

Eggs are laid by the foundress directly into the brood cells and are guarded by the foundress and the assisting females (if present). After the first larvae hatch, the foundress feeds them via progressive provisioning, bringing softened caterpillar flesh to the larvae multiple times throughout their development (as opposed to the one-time provisioning seen in some other hymenopteran groups). Each of this first seasonal brood of new paper wasps is exclusively female and destined to a subordinate worker position inside the nest; they do not found their own nests and instead assist their mother in the care and maintenance of future sisters.

Some foundress wasps do not build their own nests, but rather attempt to usurp that of another female. These usurpation attempts may or may not be successful, but almost always result in impressive displays of aggression and violence. Females may also adopt a more peaceful alternative reproduction strategy by joining the nest of a close relative (usually a sister) and working as assisting females (see above). In the latter case, evidence shows such cofounding females are generally, but not exclusively, close relatives.[3]

The worker phase usually begins in the early summer, roughly two months after colony initiation, with the emergence of the first workers. These new females take up most of the colony's work duties, foraging, caring for brood, and maintaining the structure of the nest. Around this time, those females which assisted in nest foundation (if present) are driven from the nest by aggressive behavior on the part of the foundress, and leave either to start their own late-season nests or usurp another's.

The reproductive phase of the colony begins when the first female reproductives (the gynes) emerge from their brood cells. These reproductives differ from their worker sisters by having increased levels of fat stores and cryoprotectant carbohydrate compounds (allowing them to survive the over-wintering period). These reproductives will contribute genes directly to the next generation, while their worker sisters will normally pass along their genes indirectly.

Once male reproductives emerge and both males and females disperse from the natal nest for mating flights, the so-called intermediate phase begins. Brood care and foraging behavior decline and worker numbers drop as dying individuals are no longer replaced by new ones. Intracolonial aggression increases and the social cohesion of the nest declines. In temperate Polistes species, individuals (almost exclusively inseminated females) gather in groups of up to 50 individuals and seek a sheltered location (called a hibernaculum) in which to over-winter.

Behavior[edit]

Dominance hierarchy system[edit]

Morphologically, the foundress and subordinate reproductive members of the colony differ little. However, several studies have shown behavioral differentiation occurs among females both between and within generations. This has been best-studied in P. dominula. As mentioned above, there is very little differences in morphs. In Polistes exclamans the queen have different amounts of glucose, fructose and trehalose which lead to different cryoprotectant levels. This alters their survivability in different temperatures, increasing their ability to reproduce.

Nestmate recognition[edit]

Polistes spp. discriminate colony mates using an acquired (i.e. learned) cue, absorbing hydrocarbons from the natal nest at eclosion.[4] This cuticular hydrocarbon "signature" is derived both from the plant material and the foundress-applied substances from which the nest is made. Studies of Polistes fuscatus have researched the molecular basis of the recognition "pheromone" used by the wasps, and indicate at least some of the recognizable labels have the same chemical constituents as the adult cuticular hydrocarbons. Similar recognition is found in Polistes metricus.

Dominant individuals of P. dominulus have differing cuticular profiles to workers,[5] and the frequent observations of the dominant female stroking its gaster across the nest surface, combined with its staying on the nest for longer times than subordinates, suggests the dominant individual may contribute more to the nest odor.

A study of P. carolina showed females do not preferentially feed their own progeny (as larvae),[6] so it may be the case that nest odor only serves as a likely indicator of relatedness, rather than a specific label of kinship.[citation needed]

Further to this recognition of nest-mates, a study on Polistes biglumis illustrated how foundresses discriminate between 'alien' eggs and their own, via differential oophagy.[7] The discrimination focused upon eggs destined to be reproductives, with 'alien' worker destined eggs allowed to remain on the nest. The authors speculated the benefits of allowing worker-destined eggs to remain (and so hatch to become workers which will then aid the colony) outweigh the costs of initially provisioning the resultant larvae..[citation needed]

The mechanism of differentiation was not elucidated, but was thought to be based upon differences in cuticular hydrocarbon odor. Whether the discriminatory oophagy was a result of decreased tolerance of alien odors during the later, reproductive phase of the colony cycle, or an actual discrimination between worker- and reproductive-destined eggs, remains to be supported with good evidence.[citation needed]

Gallery[edit]

Species[edit]

Pest status[edit]

Polistes chinensis antennalis (Auckland, New Zealand)

Along with the German and common wasps, the Asian and Australian paper wasps (Polistes chinensis and P. humilis) are considered pests in New Zealand. Arriving in 1979,[8] the Asian paper wasp has established itself on both North Island and northern parts of South Island. Because it competes with native species (such as the kākā) for insects, nectar and honeydew,[9][10] it is a hindrance to conservation efforts.

Parasites[edit]

Various other insects are parasites or parasitoids of Polistes, including flies (e.g., Sarcophagidae), mantispids, and wasps in the families Torymidae, Mutillidae (rarely), Braconidae, and Ichneumonidae (e.g. Latibulus argiolus). Some more specialized groups are more intimately associated with Polistes; this includes strepsipterans in the family Stylopidae (genus Xenos), wasps of the genus Elasmus (formerly placed in their own family, "Elasmidae"), and wasps in the family Trigonalidae.

References[edit]

  1. ^ James M. Carpenter (2008). "Review of Hawaiian Vespidae (Hymenoptera)" (PDF). Occasional Papers of the Bishop Museum 99: 1–18. 
  2. ^ Pest Animal Control Bay of Plenty environment report. Retrieved 7 January 2007
  3. ^ a b Hudson K. Reeve (1991). "Polistes". In Kenneth G. Ross & Robert W. Mathew. The Social Biology of Wasps. Cornell University Press. pp. 99–148. ISBN 978-0-8014-9906-7. 
  4. ^ George J. Gamboa, Thaddeus A. Grudzien, Karl Espelie & Elizabeth A. Bura (1996). "Kin recognition pheromones in social wasps: combining chemical and behavioural evidence" (PDF). Animal Behaviour 51 (1996): 625–629. doi:10.1006/anbe.1996.0067. 
  5. ^ Annie Bonavita-Cougourdan, Guy Theraulaz, Anne-Geneviève Bagnères, Maurice Roux, Michel Pratte, Eric Provost & Jean-Luc Clément (1991). "Cuticular hydrocarbons, social organisation and ovarian development in a polistine wasp: Polistes dominulus" (PDF). Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology B: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology of Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology 100 (4): 667–680. doi:10.1016/0305-0491(91)90272-F. 
  6. ^ J. E. Strassmann, P. Seppä & D. C. Queller (2000). "Absence of within-colony kin discrimination: foundresses of the social wasp, Polistes carolina, do not prefer their own larvae" (PDF). Naturwissenschaften 87 (6): 266–269. doi:10.1007/s001140050718. PMID 10929290. 
  7. ^ M. C. Lorenzi & F. Filippone (2000). "Opportunistic discrimination of alien eggs by social wasps (Polistes biglumis, Hymenoptera Vespidae): a defence against social parasitism?". Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 48 (5): 402–406. doi:10.1007/s002650000251. 
  8. ^ "Asian Paper Wasp". MAF Biosecurity New Zealand. 18 June 2008. Retrieved 26 February 2011. 
  9. ^ B. Kay Clapperton (1999). "Abundance of wasps and prey consumption of paper wasps (Hymenoptera, Vespidae: Polistinae) in Northland, New Zealand" (PDF). New Zealand Journal of Ecology 23 (1): 11––19. 
  10. ^ Richard J. Toft and Richard J. Harris (2004). "Can trapping control Asian paper wasp (Polistes chinensis antennalis) populations?" (PDF). New Zealand Journal of Ecology 28 (2): 279–282. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]