Abstract and Summary
Antennal drumming, in which Polistes queens rapidly beat the antennae on the rims of nest cells, is described in detail for P. fuscatus and shown to be performed in the context of feeding prey to the larvae. Following the distribution of solid food to the larvae, the queen goes from cell to cell on the nest, drumming her antennae on the cell rims, producing an audible sound. After several min of this, each drum on a cell is followed by contact with a larva, usually the one in the drummed cell, during which the queen regurgitates prey juice to the larva. The average burst of drumming lasts just under one s. The two antennal flagella strike the cell rim together at an average frequency of 29 strokes per s. Similar behavior is documented in 10 other Polistes species. We hypothesize that antennal drumming communicates to the larva that it is about to receive liquid food from the adult and should withhold the release of salivary secretion. This predicts that a larva that has received the drumming signal will exude less secretion than if it has not been recently signaled. An experimental test of this hypothesis yielded the predicted result, and we therefore conclude that our hypothesis is supported.