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A Review of Nesting Behavior of Digger Wasps of the Genus Aphilanthops, With Special Attention To the Mechanics of Prey Carriage

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The digger wasp genus Aphilanthops is divisible into three subgenera. Two species of the subgenus Aphilanthops are known to prey upon winged queen ants of the genus Formica. One of these species, frigidus, has been studied in some detail by WHEELER and by the present writer. In carrying the ant, the female grasps the antennae with her mandibles and holds the ant's body beneath her with her legs. The ants are stored at the bottom of the burrow, where the wings are removed; later they are moved to cells deeper in the soil. Two or three ants are used per cell; when the cell is fully provisioned the egg is laid on the top ant and the cell closed. WHEELER reported that the cells are provisioned progressively, as the larva grows, but the present studies indicate that this is not the case. Members of the subgenera Clypeadon and Listropygia prey upon worker ants of the genus Pogonomyrmex. Some information is available on six species of Clypeadon and the one known species of Listropygia, but the only detailed studies are those made by the writer on A. (Clypeadon) haigi. The general details of the nesting behavior of this species are much as in frigidus. Storage of ants in the burrow occurs, and 14 to 16 ants are supplied per cell. The ants are captured and stung at or inside the entrances to their nests. They are carried fastened to the apical segment of the wasp's abdomen by the base of the ant's middle and hind legs, thus leaving the mandibles and legs of the wasp free. The peculiar "ant-clamp" formed by the apical body segment of members of the subgenera Clypeadon and Listropygia is unique among digger wasps. Apparently it arose as a modification of the simple pygidial plate of members of the subgenus Aphilanthops, which is probably used for packing soil in the burrow as it is in other digger wasps. The pydigium and hypopygium of the species of Clypeadon are biconcave and have various processes which seem to be well fitted for clamping on to the middle and hind coxae of the ant (probably with the aid of blood pressure or muscular action). In Listropygia these modifications have become quite elaborate. While no one has observed closely the manner of prey carriage in Listropygia, it is possible to postulate how some of the various processes and notches fit into specific structures on the ant to provide a more effective device for holding the ant.

Affiliations: 1: Museum of Comparative Zoology, Cambridge, Mass.


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