Polistes Wasps

Click on picture to see some footage of various species of Polises


Here are some of the more recent findings from our 25 years of work on Polistes wasps, and related Mischocyttarus.

  • A tropical wasp, Mischocyttarus mexicanus, has arrived and established in Houston and San Antonio from Florida(Carpenter et al. 2009).
  • Unicolonial ants lack colony boundaries and so are expected to be short-lived as species and to lose worker traits (Helantera et al. 2009).
  • Polistes dominulus in its native Tuscany does not appear to have status badges (Cervo et al. 2008).
  • Polistes wasps do not remove the larvae of social parasites from the nest (Cervo et al. 2008).
  • In Polistes wasps, queen is not a pacemaker who activates workers to forage; instead they are self-organized (Jha et al. 2006).
  • In Polistes, social parasites are monophyletic and do not form host races (Fanelli et al. 2005, Choudhary et al. 1994, Carpenter et al. 1993).
  • We describe the phylogenetic relationships of the polistine wasps (Arevalo et al. 2004).
  • In Polistes gallicus males are commonly produced by workers at the end of the season after the queen dies – do the workers hasten her end? (Strassmann et al. 2003).
  • Nest foundresses in Polistes carolina have a dominance hierarchy based on order of arrival; they nest only with relatives, and do not behave in ways predicted by skew theory (Seppä et al. 2002).
  • Multiple mating is rare in social insects, occurring only in highly derived species (Strassmann 2001). This facilitated the origin of eusociality in Hymenoptera.
  • Social insects overwhelmingly help relatives reproduce. We discovered in the social wasp Polistes dominulus 35% of helpers are unrelated to the queen, apparently helping for the chance to inherit the nest and workers (Queller et al. 2000).
  • Foundresses of Polistes carolina do not preferentially feed their own larvae, which is an indication of the absence of within-colony kin discrimination (Strassmann et al. 2000).
  • Unrelated ant foundresses cooperate at colony foundation, then fight to the death for the colony resource (Bernasconi and Strassmann 1999).
  • Cooperation in social insects can be explained by kin selection. Benefits and costs can be broken down into those for fortress defenders and those for life insurers (Queller and Strassmann 1998).