Vibrating Wasps

music
ambience: vibrating Polistes wasps

There are certain species of wasps which vibrate their nests. It’s not clear why they do this, but it might be a form of communication. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. We’re listening to vibrations generated by paper wasps, scientific name Polistes Dominulus. Bernard Brennan, a graduate student in neurobiology and behavior at Cornell University has been studying these wasps, and he’s found that they produce a number of vibrations – each associated with a different behavior.

“The first one is called a lateral vibration where an adult will wag its abdomen very quickly, rubbing it against the nest, and you can hear that in the air. Quite often sometimes it will vibrate the whole nest structure.”

The vibrating insect is the female wasp who founded, or co-founded the nest.

“The next one is usually longer, she wags her abdomen sometimes as she walks across the nest surface, often proceeding cell inspection.”

The cells the female wasp is inspecting contain wasp larvae. . . premature wasps.

“And the third one, lets call it – antenna drumming – where she’ll beat her antennas together against the edge of a cell, and in the most vigorous ones, her entire body moves along its longitudinal axis as she beats the antennas against the cell. And this typically proceeds cell inspection.”

Bernard Brennan believes that the vibrations might be a means for the adult wasps to communicate with the larvae in the nest. We’ll hear more about that in future programs.

To hear about our new CD, please visit pulseplanet.com. Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

music

Vibrating Wasps

A neurobiolgist has mapped the behavior of wasps by listening to their vibrations.
Air Date:07/31/2001
Scientist:
Transcript:


music
ambience: vibrating Polistes wasps

There are certain species of wasps which vibrate their nests. It's not clear why they do this, but it might be a form of communication. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. We're listening to vibrations generated by paper wasps, scientific name Polistes Dominulus. Bernard Brennan, a graduate student in neurobiology and behavior at Cornell University has been studying these wasps, and he's found that they produce a number of vibrations - each associated with a different behavior.

"The first one is called a lateral vibration where an adult will wag its abdomen very quickly, rubbing it against the nest, and you can hear that in the air. Quite often sometimes it will vibrate the whole nest structure."

The vibrating insect is the female wasp who founded, or co-founded the nest.

"The next one is usually longer, she wags her abdomen sometimes as she walks across the nest surface, often proceeding cell inspection."

The cells the female wasp is inspecting contain wasp larvae. . . premature wasps.

"And the third one, lets call it - antenna drumming - where she'll beat her antennas together against the edge of a cell, and in the most vigorous ones, her entire body moves along its longitudinal axis as she beats the antennas against the cell. And this typically proceeds cell inspection."

Bernard Brennan believes that the vibrations might be a means for the adult wasps to communicate with the larvae in the nest. We'll hear more about that in future programs.

To hear about our new CD, please visit pulseplanet.com. Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.

music