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Effects of Experimental Forager Removals on Division of Labour in the Primitively Eusocial Wasp Polistes Instabilis (Hymenoptera: Vespidae)

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Experimental forager removals were performed to assess the mechanisms by which Polistes instabilis colonies regulate their intake of nectar and water. Most foragers gathered nectar, while water was collected by a small number of fixated foragers. Removal of the most active water foragers led to decreases in water foraging, followed by recruitment of a single replacement water forager. Replacement water foragers were usually recruited from among the workers that had previously collected water at low rates. Water forager removals showed that some workers specialized on water collection, but these workers differed in their thresholds of response to colony need for nest cooling. Removal of the most active nectar foragers led to longer-lasting (one to three days) decreases in colony nectar collection rates, and resulted in replacement nectar foragers being recruited away from other foraging tasks or from nest tasks. Nectar forager removals were followed by increases in rates of dominance interactions among nest wasps; this response was not observed after water forager removals. Dominance interactions among workers appear to regulate nectar foraging in P. instabilis. The mechanisms of regulation of foraging differ among materials, and correspond to their maximum rates of collection, predictability of resources, and on the costs of short-term changes in supply to the colony.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Psychology, Box 351525, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA;, Email:


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