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Early collapse of Vespa simillima (Hymenoptera, Vespidae) colonies in central Japan

Authors

  • Stephen J. MARTIN

    1. Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects, Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield, Western Bank, Sheffield, UK
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Stephen J. Martin, Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects, Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield, Western Bank, Sheffield S10 2TN, UK. Email: s.j.martin@sheffield.ac.uk

Abstract

During the past 15 years in the Ina Valley, Japan, mature fifth instar larvae of the yellow hornet, Vespa simillima, have been occasionally ejected from colonies during September. During 2005, this unusual behavior was particularly widespread, and collection of several V. simillima colonies confirmed that very few fifth instar larvae were present. When compared with an average colony, constructed from 41 colonies collected 20 years previously, colonies in 2005 had 80% fewer fifth instar larvae, despite queen egg-laying rates remaining similar. It may be that the amount of food provided to the larvae by workers is less than the amount of larval secretions received by workers, which is causing the larvae to become emaciated and preventing them from pupating. This phenomenon normally occurs naturally at the end of the colony cycle in November, when prey abundance decreases and larval secretions or other sources of carbohydrates, for example from ripe fruit, tree sap, or aphid secretions, are needed by sexuals to build up fat reserves. However, another possibility is that the unexplained appearance of this phenomenon in September, which is causing colonies to collapse without producing any or very few sexuals, is due to foragers feeding the larvae prey that are contaminated with insect growth regulators, via pesticides, which are known to prevent successful pupation.

Ancillary