Transmission of Polistes Vibrational Signals Across The Nest

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Harrison, Megan
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Symposium on Undergraduate Research and Creative Expression
Iowa State University Conferences and Symposia

The Symposium provides undergraduates from all academic disciplines with an opportunity to share their research with the university community and other guests through conference-style oral presentations. The Symposium represents part of a larger effort of Iowa State University to enhance, support, and celebrate undergraduate research activity.

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Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology

Polistes wasp nests, unlike those constructed by other social insects, are made of pulp, bell shaped, hung by a petiole, and exposed. We propose this simple design may have been selected to maximize transmission of vibrational signals throughout the nest. For example, antennal drumming by Polistes queens may be one way that wasps use the nest substrate to communicate. If selection has acted in a way that wasps construct nests so to maximize signal transmission, then the antennal drumming signal should remain intact as the distance from the signaler increases. Alternatively, if the nest is not constructed so to maximize vibrational communication, then the antennal drumming signal should dampen as the distance from signaler increases. To test these hypotheses, we attached piezoelectric devices to Polistes fuscatus nests. These devices record the frequency and amplitude of vibrations on the nest. We filmed the activity on three nests for 30 minutes on multiple days, and noted the distance the drumming wasp was from the piezo device while it recorded the vibration. We compare the effect that distance has on signal strength and variability in the antennal drumming signal, as well as in other active and inactive behaviors.

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