Mass provisioning

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A spider wasp (Pompilidae) dragging a jumping spider (Salticidae) to provision her nest

Mass provisioning is a form of parental behavior in which an adult insect, most commonly a hymenopteran such as a bee or wasp, stocks all the food for each of her offspring in a small chamber (a "cell") before she lays the egg.


In 1958, Howard E. Evans published a study of the nesting behaviour of Sphecini digger wasps, showing a range of ways of stocking their nests. In Priononyx, several Nearctic and Palaearctic species catch a grasshopper, and then dig a nest for it, so there is one prey per nest. The nest consists of a single cell, and the egg is laid touching the coxa of a hind leg. In contrast, a Neotropical species, P. spinolae, digs the nest first, creating multiple cells, and stocks each cell with 5–10 grasshoppers; the egg is laid on the underside of the thorax.[1]


In predatory wasps, the food is typically in the form of paralyzed or dead prey items. In bees it consists of masses of mixed pollen and nectar. The best-known examples from outside the Hymenoptera are dung beetles, which typically provision with either leaves or dung. Once the provisions are in place and the egg is laid, the cell is sealed, to protect the developing brood.[2][3]

In a few extreme cases, such as stingless bees, the number of cells in a single nest can number in the thousands, but more typically a nest contains either a single cell, or a small number (fewer than 10).[4]

Evolution of social behaviour[edit]

Many eusocial insects, such as ants and honey bees, instead practise progressive provisioning, where the larvae are fed directly and continually during their development.[5]

Most digger wasps mass provision their nests with prey. After digging the nest they quickly catch one or a few prey animals, bring them to the nest and lay eggs on them, seal the nest and leave. In a few cases, provisioning is delayed long enough for the egg to hatch before the final prey is put in the nest. Zoologists consider such "delayed provisioning" a significant stage in the evolution of progressive provisioning[5] and thus of parental care in insects.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Evans, Howard E. (March 1958). "Studies on the Nesting Behavior of Digger Wasps of the Tribe Sphecini. Part I: Genus Priononyx Dahlbom". Annals of the Entomological Society of America 51 (2): 177–186. doi:10.1093/aesa/51.2.177. 
  2. ^ Wilson, 1971[page needed]
  3. ^ a b Kölliker, Mathias (9 August 2012). The Evolution of Parental Care. OUP Oxford. pp. 84–85. ISBN 978-0-19-163741-4. 
  4. ^ Wilson, 1971[page needed]
  5. ^ a b O'Neill, Kevin M. (2001). Solitary Wasps: Behavior and Natural History. Cornell University Press. p. 329. ISBN 0-8014-3721-0. 


  • Wilson, E.O. (1971) The Insect Societies. Harvard, Belknap Press.