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A solitary ground-nesting wasp truncates its parental investment in response to detection of parasites


Rosenheim, Jay (2021), A solitary ground-nesting wasp truncates its parental investment in response to detection of parasites, Dryad, Dataset,


1. Parental investment by solitary nest-building wasps and bees is predicted to be plastic, responding to variation in the sex of the offspring, the availability of food used as provisions (‘resource limitation’), the female’s inventory of mature oocytes (‘egg limitation’), and risk imposed by nest parasites.

2. I observed nest provisioning by Ammophila dysmica, a solitary, ground-nesting wasp that provisions its nest with one or two caterpillar prey to evaluate the hypotheses that
provisioning is shaped by caterpillar size, offspring sex, the hunting time required to capture prey, a female’s egg load, and penetration of nests by the parasites Argochrysis
and Hilarella hilarella.

3. Ammophila dysmica were more likely to add a second provision to the nest when the first prey item was relatively small and when provisioning daughters.

4. Neither the hunting time required to capture the first caterpillar prey nor the female’s inventory of oocytes predicted a female’s likelihood of adding a second caterpillar to a nest. Variation in oocyte inventory across females was minimal; all females examined had a mature or nearly mature oocyte remaining in the ovaries immediately after laying an egg.

5. Ammophila dysmica were much less likely to add a second caterpillar to nests that were penetrated by parasites during the first provisioning.

6. Although many nest parasites have evolved adaptations to avoid detection by their hosts, oviposition by A. armilla often appears to reveal its presence, eliciting an abrupt truncation of investment by the host in that nest.


All data were collected by direct observations in the field.

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National Science Foundation

University of California Berkeley

Sigma Xi

University of Hawai'i