The Effects of Vibrational Cues on Physiological Development in Polistes fuscatus (paper wasps)
Investigation into the causes and effects of behavior has advanced our knowledge of the effects of social interactions on an organism's physiology. In Polistes fuscatus, antennal drumming is usually performed by the queen on the cell walls of the nest after larvae reach the third instar. The "mechanical switch" hypothesis (Jeanne 2011) suggests that the drumming experienced by larvae early in the colony season causes them to develop into workers; whereas, later in the colony season, those that do not experience this drumming develop into queens. In this study I measured the distance between the source of an artificial vibration that simulates natural queen drumming and the location of developing larvae. If distance from the vibrational cue affects caste development, then those farther from the signal should develop with more queen-like physiology (measured in lipid “fat” content). Alternatively, if vibrational cues do not dampen as they pass through the nest, then distance should not correlate with physiology. The results of my study show that in our sample there was no correlation between lipid content and the distance between where the larva developed and the vibrational cue.