The effects of nutrition and mechanical stress on social wasp development
Social insects (bees, ants, wasps, termites) are known for their unique communal living. While some insects may live in solitary, producing and taking care of their own larvae, social insects have one reproducing member (queen) with the rest of the colony insects (workers) taking care of the queen’s offspring. A great deal of research on social insects today attempts to understand what determines why a member of a social colony becomes the queen or one of the workers. In social wasps, some of this research suggests that a wasp's role is determined through mechanical manipulation and nutrition. Our research aims to answer if the addition of a vibration and the amount of nutrition can affect a wasp's physiology, gene expression, and behavior. This question was tested by adding/not adding artificial vibration onto a nest and lowering nutrition or leaving nutrition at a normal level on experimental nests. Videos of wasp contests were taken to observe behavior, lipid assays and dissections were performed to review physiological changes, and qPCR was performed to observe gene expression changes. We observed a few significant differences in our data but not in every section, suggesting that we don’t understand the whole picture of queen/worker differentiation.