Evolution of Swarm Communication in Eusocial Wasps (Hymenoptera: Vespidae)

Research paper by Adam R. Smith, Sean O'Donnell, Robert L. Jeanne

Indexed on: 01 Nov '02Published on: 01 Nov '02Published in: Journal of insect behavior


Eusocial paper wasps, yellowjackets, and hornets (Vespidae) exhibit two modes of colony foundation, primitively eusocial independent founders and advanced eusocial swarm founders. Unlike independent founders, swarmfounding wasps require a means of social communication to coordinate the movement of colony members between nest sites. We employed a phylogeny of paper wasps, yellowjackets, and hornets to test for patterns of correlated evolution between the mode of colony foundation and the presence of sternal exocrine glands. We also reviewed data on worker actions during swarming to determine whether swarm communication behavior was dependent upon gland possession and whether communicative behavior was shared among swarm-founding species. We did not find evidence for an association of sternal glands with swarm founding. Although sternal gland presence differed among swarm-founding species, worker behavior during swarming showed little variation. Workers of nearly all swarm-founding species rub their gasters on objects along swarm routes, independently of the occurrence of sternal glands. Widespread gastral rubbing indicates the use of swarm emigration trail pheromones from a diversity of glandular sources. Transitions from independent to swarm founding have been achieved via diverse pheromonal mechanisms in the Vespidae, while worker communicative behavior is either highly conserved or convergent.