Landmark Territoriality in the Neotropical Paper Wasps Polistes canadensis (L.) and P. carnifex (F.) (Hymenoptera: Vespidae)


  • Michal Polak

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    1. Zoology Department, Erindale College, University of Toronto, Mississauga
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      Polak, M. 1993: Landmark territoriality in the neotropical paper wasps Polistes canadensis (L.) and P. carnifex (F.) (Hymenoptera: Vespidae). Ethology 95, 278–290.

Department of Zoology, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287–1501, USA.


Male Polistes canadensis and P. carnifex aggregate along crests of prominent ridges in Santa Rosa National Park, Costa Rica. At these sites males of both species defend territories (trees and shrubs) by chasing conspecific rivals. Territories do not contain nests or resources that are collected by females. Chasing by territorial males reduces the amount of time spent by intruders in a territory. I describe and contrast male territorial behavior of both species. Some male P. canadensis are territorial while others in the same area exhibit patrolling behavior, flying from one occupied territory to another. Males of P. carnifex exhibit territoriality only. Patrolling in P. canadensis is an outcome of relatively high male density along the ridge, rendering territories in short supply, as shown by the observation that experimentally vacated territories are seized rapidly by formerly patrolling males. Due to a high intraspecific intrusion rate, territorial male P. canadensis spend less time perching and more time flying and chasing intruders from their territories than do male P. carnifex. Males of these two species also differ in the placement of their territories along the ridgeline; P. canadensis occupy territories in saddles while P. carnifex occupy those at peaktops. I show that this divergent spatial pattern is not maintained by competitive exclusion of either species by the other, and I discuss alternative explanations for their separate spatial distributions. Comparative data suggest that males are territorial because females restrict matings to within territories, and I discuss alternative hypotheses to explain this bias in female behavior.