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Demography of the Okinawan eusocial wasp Ropalidia fasciata (Hymenoptera: Vespidae) I. Survival rate of individuals and colonies, and yearly fluctuations in colony density


Yosiaki Itô, 2908, Kaguyama 2-chome, Nisshin, Aichi, 470-0134 Japan.


We conducted a series of demographic studies of the primitively eusocial wasp Ropalidia fasciata in Okinawa, a subtropical part of Japan, and found the following. The colony cycle of this wasp is annual, spanning from April to November or even December; this is longer than the colony cycles of other temperate polistine wasps so far reported. The survival rate of the marked foundresses was 40% to June, dropping to 1.4% by September. These survival rates are similar to other subtropical and tropical species. Most females that emerged in November were probably second generation adults (progeny of the original foundresses), which would participate in founding nests in the following spring. These facts indicate that R. fasciata in Okinawa is at least partially bivoltine. Survival of a nest to September was 10–20%; however, because a failed nest is often rebuilt, survival of the colony to September was as high as 50%. The mean number of new foundresses produced per foundress was 7.5, and their overwintering survival was 16%. Hence, a single foundress produced, on average, 1.2 progeny foundresses to the following year. Density dependence was shown in the rate at which the progeny foundresses were produced. These results explain the remarkable stability of nest densities from year to year in the area. The above results reveal that R. fasciata in Okinawa shares many demographic characteristics with other primitively eusocial wasps, particularly year-to-year stability of nest density and a long colony cycle.