Vibrating Wasps: Communication

music
ambience: vibrating Polistes wasps

We’re listening to the sound of a paper wasp rubbing against its hive and producing this vibration. We don’t know for sure what it means, but there are some clues. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Bernard Brennan is a graduate student in neurobiology and behavior at Cornell University. He’s been studying the behavior of paper wasps, in particular the relationship between adults wasps and the wasps’ larvae – premature wasps.

“There’s this interesting relationship between the adults and larva in these wasps. Neither can really survive without the other. We call it trophilaxis, and its really two way feeding. The adults go out, hunt caterpillars, bring them back and feed them to the larva. They can’t digest them themselves. They give them to the larva, they digest them, grow on those nutrients, but they also provide back what’s termed saliva, it’s a poor term, but the fluids back to the adults which contain amino acids and other nutrients that the adults can’t produce themselves. So, the adults are feeding the larva, and the larva are feeding the adults.”

Bernard Brennan believes that the nest vibrating could be a form of signal between the adult wasps and the larvae while their feeding.

“These vibrations could be sort of a general nestwide signal for turning everything on, or off. Okay, food is coming to the nest, or it’s just come to the nest. Or, it’s been processed, and go back to your digest, we have no more food. We really don’t know. That’s part of what I’m trying to find out. When these signals occur, and then what conditions can I manipulate to demonstrate that these signals mean these things to these different players in this situation.”

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: Communication

Adult wasps and their larva depend on feeding one another for the survival of all.
Air Date:08/01/2001
Scientist:
Transcript:


music
ambience: vibrating Polistes wasps

We're listening to the sound of a paper wasp rubbing against its hive and producing this vibration. We don't know for sure what it means, but there are some clues. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Bernard Brennan is a graduate student in neurobiology and behavior at Cornell University. He's been studying the behavior of paper wasps, in particular the relationship between adults wasps and the wasps' larvae - premature wasps.

"There's this interesting relationship between the adults and larva in these wasps. Neither can really survive without the other. We call it trophilaxis, and its really two way feeding. The adults go out, hunt caterpillars, bring them back and feed them to the larva. They can't digest them themselves. They give them to the larva, they digest them, grow on those nutrients, but they also provide back what's termed saliva, it's a poor term, but the fluids back to the adults which contain amino acids and other nutrients that the adults can't produce themselves. So, the adults are feeding the larva, and the larva are feeding the adults."

Bernard Brennan believes that the nest vibrating could be a form of signal between the adult wasps and the larvae while their feeding.

"These vibrations could be sort of a general nestwide signal for turning everything on, or off. Okay, food is coming to the nest, or it's just come to the nest. Or, it's been processed, and go back to your digest, we have no more food. We really don't know. That's part of what I'm trying to find out. When these signals occur, and then what conditions can I manipulate to demonstrate that these signals mean these things to these different players in this situation."

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