Queens of the Paper Wasp Polistes fuscatus (Hymenoptera: Vespidae) Discriminate among Larvae on the Basis of Relatedness


Corresponding author: George J. Gamboa, Department of Biological Sciences, Oakland University, Rochester, MI 48309-4476, USA. E-mail: gamboa@oakland.edu


The ability of queens of the paper wasp Polistes fuscatus to recognize larvae on the basis of colony origin was investigated in the laboratory. In a blind, binary choice paradigm, queens discriminated between larvae from their own colony and unrelated larvae, and between larvae from a sister colony and unrelated larvae. However, queens failed to discriminate between larvae from their own colony and larvae from a sister colony, indicating that queens of multiple-foundress colonies may lack the ability to make intracolonial brood discriminations on the basis of relatedness. These results demonstrate that recognition of larvae is mediated by larval-borne, genetically specified odors. Gas chromatograph/mass spectral analysis revealed that adults and larvae have similar cuticular hydrocarbon profiles, suggesting that the cues mediating larval and adult recognition may be the same.