Nestmate Recognition in the Bald-Faced Hornet: Dolichovespula maculata (Hymenoptera: Vespidae)
Laboratory studies of nestmate recognition were conducted on gynes (potential queens) of the bald-faced hornet, Dolichovespula maculata. Recognition was determined using two bioassays, one involving behavioral interactions, the other spacing patterns between hornets. A control and two experimental groups were observed. Individuals were exposed to 1) both their natal nest and nestmates (control treatment), 2) only their adult female nestmates (nestmates only treatment), or 3) neither their nest or nestmates (isolate treatment). In each group gynes were more tolerant of their nestmates than they were of unrelated gynes. Thus, gynes of D. maculata have the ability to recognize their nestmate gynes apart from the context of their natal nest using individually borne cues. The ontogeny of a gyne's nestmate recognition ability is affected by its isolation from its nest at emergence. However, unlike previous studies of social wasps of the genus Polistes, the isolation of a D. rnaculata gyne from the natal nest at emergence does not prevent it from later recognizing nestmates. This apparent difference in the ontogeny of nestmate recognition ability between the Polistinae and Vespinae may be at least partly attributable to behavioral differences between young gynes of the subfamilies.