Insectes Sociaux

, Volume 32, Issue 3, pp 275–285 | Cite as

Worker mortality and the evolution of castes in the social wasppolistes exclamans

  • J. E. Strassmann


Workers of the primitively social wasp,Polistes exclamans, had very short average lifespans, averaging 14 days (S.D.=11, N=497) in 1977, 17 days (S.D.=14, N=503) in 1978 and 14 days (S.D.=10, N=222) in 1979; the oldest worker observed on a natural colony was 102 days old. Colony of origin explained more of the variance in worker longevity than did any other variable. Worker longevity decreased over the season, accompanied by an increase in larval development times and an increase in colony failure rates. In 1978 workers emerging in the presence of greater numbers of other workers lived longer which indicates that they may have performed risky tasks less often when many other females were present. Compared to 1977 and 1979, 1978 was characterized by greater numbers of workers per colony, shorter larva development times, longer average lifespans for workers, much higher probabilities of nest survival and greater average production of reproductives per colony.


Development Time Failure Rate Larva Development Average Production Nest Survival 

Le taux de mortalité des ouvrières et l'évolution des castes chez la guêpe sociale Polistes exclamans


La durée de vie des ouvrières appartenant à l'espècePolistes exclamans fut en moyenne de 14 jours (déviation standard égale à 11 pour 497 individus) en 1977, de 17 jours (déviation standard égale à 14 pour 503 individus) et de 14 jours (déviation standard égale à 10 pour 222 individus) en 1979. L'ouvrière la plus vieille que nous ayons observée avait 102 jours. La variance de longévité a été due à la colonie d'origine plutôt qu'à n'importe quelle autre variable. La diminution saisonnière de la longévité d'une ouvrière s'accompagne d'un accroissement de la durée du développement larvaire et d'un accroissement du nombre des colonies abortives. Ces observations suggèrent que la disponibilité de proies décroît tard dans la saison. En 1978, les ouvrières apparues en présence d'un grand nombre d'autres ouvrières vécurent plus longtemps. L'année 1978 comparée à celles de 1977 et de 1979 a été caractérisée par un plus grand nombre d'ouvrières par colonie, des durées du développement larvaire raccourcies et une durée de vie moyenne plus longue pour les ouvrières, des probabilités plus grandes pour la survie des nids et une plus grande moyenne de production de «reproductrices» par colonie.


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Copyright information

© Masson 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. E. Strassmann
    • 1
  1. 1.Biology DepartmentRice UniversityHoustonUSA

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