The social parasite wasp Polistes atrimandibularis does not form host races


D. Fanelli, Dipartimento di Biologia Animale e Genetica, Università di Firenze, via Romana 17–19, 50129, Firenze, Italy.
Tel.: 00 395 52288202; fax: 00 395 5222565;


Parasites that exploit the parental behaviour of several host species may be selected to form distinct host-specific genetic lineages. This process is well documented in bird brood parasites, but not in insect social parasites. Polistes atrimandibularis is the only paper-wasp social parasite known to exploit four host species. It does not form genetically distinct host races according to analyses based on microsatellite loci. Also, there were no size-matching between parasites and host species. Instead, P. atrimandibularis queens seemed to be successful as parasites in this population only when they originated from nests of P. dominulus, the largest species. The other host species are a sink for P. atrimandibularis since adult females emerging from those nests appear too small to usurp colonies themselves. Traits that may help P. atrimandibularis infiltrate multiple species may include its nonaggressive usurpation tactics and its ability to acquire host cuticular hydrocarbon recognition labels.