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Foraging behaviour of the exotic wasp Vespula germanica (Hymenoptera: Vespidae) on a native caterpillar defoliator

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 September 2017

A.L. Pietrantuono
CONICET- INTA EEA-Bariloche, Modesta Victoria 4450, CC 277. San Carlos de Bariloche (8400) Río Negro, Argentina
S. Moreyra
Laboratory Ecotono, INIBIOMA – CONICET- Universidad Nacional del Comahue, Quintral 1250. San Carlos de Bariloche (8400), Río Negro, Argentina
M. Lozada
Laboratory Ecotono, INIBIOMA – CONICET- Universidad Nacional del Comahue, Quintral 1250. San Carlos de Bariloche (8400), Río Negro, Argentina


Vespula germanica is a social wasp and an opportunistic predator. While foraging, these wasps learn and integrate different kinds of cues. They have successfully invaded many parts of the world, including native Nothofagus and Lophozonia forests located in the Andean-Patagonian region, where they forage on native arthropods. Perzelia arda, a lepidopteron defoliator of Lophozonia obliqua, uses the foliage to hide in and feed on. The purpose of this work is to study whether V. germanica use olfactory cues when foraging on P. arda. To do this, we used a Y-tube olfactometer and established three treatments to compare pairs of all combinations of stimuli (larvae, leaves with larval traces, and leaves without larval traces) and controls. Data were analysed via two developed models that showed decisions made by V. germanica and allowed to establish a scale of preferences between the stimuli. The analysis demonstrates that V. germanica wasps choose P. arda as larval prey and are capable of discriminating between the offered stimuli (deviance information criterion (DIC) null model = 873.97; DIC simple model = 84.5, n = 152). According to the preference scale, V. germanica preferred leaves with traces of larvae, suggesting its ability to associate these traces with the presence of the prey. This may be because, under natural conditions, larvae are never exposed outside their shelters of leaves and therefore V. germanica uses indirect signals. The presence of V. germanica foraging on P. arda highlights the flexible foraging behaviour of this wasp which may also act as a positive biological control, reducing lepidopteran populations.

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Foraging behaviour of the exotic wasp Vespula germanica (Hymenoptera: Vespidae) on a native caterpillar defoliator
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