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Abstract

We simulated intraspecific usurpation in two species of paper wasps at a field site in Michigan to compare the species' treatment of foreign brood. Queens of Polistes fuscatus, a species that commonly uses intraspecific usurpation as an alternative reproductive tactic, destroyed significantly fewer large larvae and significantly more small larvae than queens of P. dominulus, a sympatric species that rarely usurps. The pattern of brood destruction exhibited by P. fuscatus was consistent with the previously published findings that P. fuscatus usurpers destroy reproductive-destined brood (eggs and small larvae), but not worker-destined brood (large larvae and pupae) that are subsequently used by a usurper to raise her own reproductives. The pattern of brood destruction displayed by P. dominulus differed from that of Polistes species that frequently engage in intraspecific usurpation. The brood destruction pattern in P. dominulus may have been shaped by nest adoption, a common alternative reproductive tactic in this species. If so, it is not clear why P. dominulus would destroy large, worker-destined larvae.