The cues have it; nest-based, cue-mediated recruitment to carbohydrate resources in a swarm-founding social wasp
This study explores whether or not foragers of the Neotropical swarm-founding wasp Polybia occidentalis use nest-based recruitment to direct colony mates to carbohydrate resources. Recruitment allows social insect colonies to rapidly exploit ephemeral resources, an ability especially advantageous to species such as P. occidentalis, which store nectar and prey in their nests. Although recruitment is often defined as being strictly signal mediated, it can also occur via cue-mediated information transfer. Previous studies indicated that P. occidentalis employs local enhancement, a type of cue-mediated recruitment in which the presence of conspecifics at a site attracts foragers. This recruitment is resource-based, and as such, is a blunt recruitment tool, which does not exclude non-colony mates. We therefore investigated whether P. occidentalis also employs a form of nest-based recruitment. A scented sucrose solution was applied directly to the nest. This mimicked a scented carbohydrate resource brought back by employed foragers, but, as foragers were not allowed to return to the nest with the resource, there was no possibility for on-nest recruitment behavior. Foragers were offered two dishes—one containing the test scent and the other an alternate scent. Foragers chose the test scent more often, signifying that its presence in the nest induces naïve foragers to search for it off-nest. P. occidentalis, therefore, employs a form of nest-based recruitment to carbohydrate resources that is mediated by a cue, the presence of a scented resource in the nest.