Campus Units

Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology

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Book Chapter

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Published Version

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Journal or Book Title

Comparative Social Evolution

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Wasps encompass solitary, communal, and facultative, obligate, and swarm-founding social species and are important model organisms for study of the origin and elaboration of insect sociality. Common names for social species are hover wasps, paper wasps, yellowjackets, hornets, and swarm-founding wasps. Excepting a few communal species, all social wasps are in a single family, Vespidae. Social wasps occur worldwide except in extreme dry or cold climates. Nourishment dynamics and dominance interactions shape intra-colony social structure. Communication can be chemical, vibrational, or visual. Differentiation of egg-layers and workers can occur among adults or larvae via differential feeding, dominance, and corresponding changes in gene expression. Some species have definitive queen and worker castes determined during larval development. Most colonies are comprised of related individuals, but workers may care for unrelated individuals. The diversity of social forms makes wasps one of the most informative taxa for integrative and comparative studies of ecological and genetic drivers of cooperative behavior and the evolution of insect sociality.


This is a chapter from Hunt, J.H. and Toth, A.L. 2017. “Sociality in wasps”. In: Comparative Social Evolution. Rubenstein, D.R. and Abbot, P., Editors. Cambridge University Press. Posted with permission.

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Cambridge University Press



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