Data from: Nest signature changes throughout colony cycle and after social parasite invasion in social wasps
Elia, Marta et al. (2018), Data from: Nest signature changes throughout colony cycle and after social parasite invasion in social wasps, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.6bs40
Social insects recognize their nestmates by means of a cuticular hydrocarbon signature shared by colony members, but how nest signature changes across time has been rarely tested in longitudinal studies and in the field. In social wasps, the chemical signature is also deposited on the nest surface, where it is used by newly emerged wasps as a reference to learn their colony odor. Here, we investigate the temporal variations of the chemical signature that wasps have deposited on their nests. We followed the fate of the colonies of the social paper wasp Polistes biglumis in their natural environment from colony foundation to decline. Because some colonies were invaded by the social parasite Polistes atrimandibularis, we also tested the effects of social parasites on the nest signature. We observed that, as the season progresses, the nest signature changed; the overall abundance of hydrocarbons as well as the proportion of longer-chain and branched hydrocarbons increased. Where present, social parasites altered the host-nest signature qualitatively (adding parasite-specific alkenes) and quantitatively (by interfering with the increase in overall hydrocarbon abundance). Our results show that 1) colony odor is highly dynamic both in colonies controlled by legitimate foundresses and in those controlled by social parasites; 2) emerged offspring contribute little to colony signature, if at all, in comparison to foundresses; and 3) social parasites, that later mimic host signature, initially mark host nests with species-specific hydrocarbons. This study implies that important updating of the neural template used in nestmate recognition should occur in social insects.