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Queen Regulation of Worker Foraging in Paper Wasps: a Social Feedback Control System (Polistes Fuscatus, Hymenoptera: Vespidae)

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We examined the queen's role in regulation of worker foraging in small field colonies of the primitively eusocial wasp, Polistes fuscatus (29 colonies; 148 h observation). Queen removal results in a significant reduction in worker departure rate. The placement of a cooled, inactive queen into her queenless nest produces a significantly greater reduction in worker departure rate than does queen removal, and the resumption of activity by an inactive queen causes a significant increase in worker departure rate. Removal or cooling of a single worker does not produce similar effects on worker foraging, suggesting that the queen is the central regulator of worker foraging in small P. fuscatus colonies. We present evidence that: (1) the queen's control of worker foraging is mediated primarily by her influence on worker nest activity, (2) queen aggression may be important in stimulating departures by workers with low tendencies to leave the nest (i.e., dominant workers), and (3) the magnitude of the queen's stimulatory influence on worker foraging is directly related to the number of workers on the nest. We integrate these results with evidence from our other studies of polistine colony dynamics in a feedback control model of the social regulation of foraging.

Affiliations: 1: Section of Neurobiology and Behavior, Cornell university, Ithaca, NY 14853; 2: Department of Biological Sciences, Oakland University, Rochester, MI 48063


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