Males Exhibit Novel Relationships of Dominance with Nest Departure in the Social Paper Wasp Mischocyttarus mastigophorus (Hymenoptera: Vespidae)


Yamile Molina, Animal Behavior Program, Department of Psychology, Box 351525, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA. E-mail:


In many animal societies, an individual’s opportunities to reproduce correspond to their position in a dominance hierarchy. In primitively eusocial paper wasps, female social dominance and direct reproduction are positively associated with taking food from nest mates, but both negatively correlate with foraging flights. Female paper wasps reproduce by laying eggs in their nest, while males reproduce by leaving the nest to copulate. Males of Mischocyttarus mastigophorus are unusual because they reside on their natal nests for prolonged periods, and males direct aggression towards female nestmates. Mischocyttarus mastigophorus males provide an opportunity to further analyse the relationships between dominance, nutrition and nest departure. We found males’ rates of social aggression, food taking behaviour, and rates of nest departure were positively correlated. Furthermore, males that initiated aggression at younger ages also began flying earlier, and males engaged in all three behaviours at younger ages than females. Male social aggression may lead to nutrient acquisition, which enable males to depart from the nest. We hypothesise that male nest departure could be adaptive if it increases male mating opportunities. This could account for the positive relationship between dominance and nest departure for males.