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Territorial dynamics and contest behaviour in the solitary wasp Stizus continuus (Hymenoptera: Apoidea: Crabronidae)

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Territorial and agonistic behaviour in male sand wasps (Stizus continuus) was investigated in order to determine the influence of body size on territory maintenance and the strategies used to reduce the costs associated with territoriality. Size is the decisive factor in the capacity of males to defend a territory against other competitors: (1) in the disputes observed, the largest male was usually the winner; (2) territorial males were larger than those never seen occupying territories; (3) the size of males occupying territories that were left vacant when their inhabitants were removed experimentally was smaller. To optimize their territorial behaviour, males only defend sites in the nesting area and only when virgin females are emerging (from 0700 to 1300), and reduce the time spent perching (as opposed to patrolling) as temperature increases during the morning. To reduce costs associated with contests, males fight only with rivals of similar size and show a greater tendency to fight with larger males when virgin females are most likely to emerge (from 0800 to 1000). This suggests that males may be able to estimate the size of rivals immediately before an attack (face-to-face hovering), and leave when the opponent is significantly larger.


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