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Recognition of Conspecifics and Sex By Territorial Males of the Social Wasp Polistes Fuscatus (Hymenoptera: Vespidae)

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Territorial males of Polistes fuscatus (subspecies variatus) respond to intruders with a chain of behavior of increasing intensity as follows: (1) no reaction, (2) orient, (3) pursue, (4) grasp, and (5) either grapple (with male intruders) or attempt copulation (with females). In the laboratory test objects combining different visual, chemical, and behavioral stimuli were tethered and waved in front of perched territorial males to determine the role of each in eliciting a male response. All test objects elicited an orient response. The overall color or contrast with the background and shape of the test object had little effect on male response. The black and yellow banded coloration characteristic of conspecifics released pursuit and grasping behavior, while chemical cues in combination with the banded coloration released grasping and grappling or attempt copulation. Recognition of sex was based on chemical cues and not on the sexually dichromic coloration. From this and previous studies we conclude that the black and yellow banded coloration of conspecifics is the most important visual stimulus for long-range attraction (> 15 cm) of males, while at close-range or on contact a cuticular surface pheromone and a sex pheromone from the venom are important in the recognition of conspecifics and for discrimination between the sexes.

Affiliations: 1: (Department of Entomology, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin, 53706, U.S.A.

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