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Are solitary progressive-provisioning wasps optimal foragers? A study with the digger wasp Bembix merceti (Hymenoptera: Crabronidae)

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Bembix merceti, a central-place forager that captures dipterans to feed its larvae, could be considered a suboptimal forager. The females tend to optimize their provisioning flights, capturing prey in proportions different from those present in the surrounding environment. These wasps make a positive selection of families of flies with greater mean weights even though they are less abundant and, within the families whose weight is not too great, capture individuals whose weight is larger than the mean. Selection is based on prey size and not on the type (family) to which the prey belongs. A significant correlation between the weight of each female and the weight of the largest prey captured by the wasp was found, suggesting that the females capture prey in consonance with their lift capacity. Nevertheless, captures were not optimized maximally; the females maintained a margin with respect to the maximum prey weights that they could transport efficiently. This margin could be related to the low availability of large prey in the environment; to the type of progressive provisioning shown by the females of this species; and to other factors, such as the good manoeuvrability of their prey and the pressure from their natural enemies and congeners.

Affiliations: 1: (Área de Zoología, Facultad de Biología, Universidad de Salamanca, 37071 Salamanca, Spain)


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