Nest parasites attempt to shift the cost of rearing young from themselves to others. Despite strong selection to avoid this exploitation, there is considerable variation among-individuals in susceptibility to nest parasites. We evaluated the effects of individual variation in boldness, aggressiveness, and olfactory responsiveness on egg discrimination in wasps: Polistes metricus, which founds nests as singleton individuals, and P. dominula, which founds nests in small coalitions. Aggressiveness and boldness were evaluated using individuals’ response to mechanical disturbance, and olfactory responsiveness was evaluated using individuals’ tendency to respond to a novel rewarding stimulus. Egg discrimination was evaluated by presenting each queen with a variety of foreign eggs: 1) unaltered eggs laid by the resident (negative control group), 2) eggs produced by the resident female that were removed and replaced (procedural control), 3) eggs of foreign conspecifics (conspecific egg), and 4) eggs of a heterospecific congener (heterospecific egg). Females of both species never rejected untampered eggs and rejected procedural controls in only 35% of cases. Both species were twice as likely (70% rejection rate) to reject eggs of foreign conspecifics or heterospecifics. In P. dominula, bolder individuals and those with low olfactory responsiveness were more likely to reject foreign eggs. In P. metricus, boldness was not associated with egg rejection, but individuals with heightened olfactory responsiveness were more likely to reject foreign eggs. Thus, there are contrasting associations between behavioral phenotypes and egg rejection across species. These results are discussed in light of differences in the colony founding behavior of these species.
Wright, C. M., McEwen, B. L., Fisher, D. N., Lichtenstein, J. L. L., Antoun, A., Tibbetts, E. A., & Pruitt, J. N. (2019). Egg discrimination is mediated by individual differences in queen olfactory responsiveness and boldness. Behavioral Ecology, 30(5), 1306-1313. https://doi.org/10.1093/beheco/arz078