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Colony cycle in the south-eastern coastal populations of Ropalidia plebeiana, the only Ropalidia wasp occurring in temperate Australia

Authors


Fuki Saito, Natural History Laboratory, Faculty of Science, Ibaraki University, Mito, 310-8512 Japan. Email: nd5507t@mcs.ibaraki.ac.jp

Abstract

Of the 22 species of Ropalidia occurring in Australia, only R. plebeiana is distributed in temperate areas. This wasp is abundant in the south-eastern coastal regions of Australia, where it forms huge nest aggregations. Based on our observations in late autumn and early spring, as well as information in the literature, we outline the colony cycle of R. plebeiana in the south-eastern coastal area of New South Wales. The nesting period lasts for approximately 9.5 months, which is unusually long for temperate polistine wasps. Most foundresses seem to return to their natal nests in early spring (mid-August to early September) to start their own colonies by reusing pre-existing nest combs, and the pre-emergence stage (before the emergence of the first adult brood) lasts for approximately 3.5 months. Reproductives (gynes and males) start to emerge as adults in early March, and the reproductive-producing period lasts until the end of May. Both the pre-emergence stage and the reproductive-producing period are much longer than in other temperate polistine wasps, which is discussed in terms of fluctuating temperature conditions in the area and the formation of nest aggregations, a peculiar habit for temperate populations of R. plebeiana.

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