Data from: Dispersal of spicebush (Calycanthus occidentalis, Calycanthaceae) by yellow jackets (genus Vespula; Hymenoptera: Vespidae)
Burge, Dylan O.; Beck, John J. (2019), Data from: Dispersal of spicebush (Calycanthus occidentalis, Calycanthaceae) by yellow jackets (genus Vespula; Hymenoptera: Vespidae), Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.9f5c711
Carnivorous wasps of the family Vespidae are known to seek out and disperse the diaspores of at least two North American and two Asian plant species. Attraction of the wasps to the diaspores is likely due to the release of volatile compounds that signal availability of an eliaiosome rich in protein and fat, which the wasps remove before releasing the diaspore. It is thought that this interaction between carnivorous wasps and plants is rare, occurring in just a few plant species. Here, we present our findings on dispersal of spicebush (Calycanthus occidentalis Hook. & Arn.) achenes by carnivorous wasps of the genus Vespula. Observations and experiments were performed with the goals of discovering: how geographically widespread this interaction is; what the reward system is, if any; and, how wasps detect the achenes. Eight populations of C. occidentalis in northern California were used to observe wasps and plants, and to perform experiments on wasp attraction to the achenes. In all examined populations, workers of western yellowjacket (Vespula pensylvanica [de Saussure, 1857]) were observed entering mature Calycanthus receptacles, removing achenes, taking flight with them, and successfully transporting achenes through the air. Receptacles were found to open upward at an average angle of 45° (SD = 29°), preventing the achenes from falling to the ground when mature. No animals other than wasps were observed visiting the receptacles during the observations. Experiments suggest that wasps are attracted to an elaiosome-like organ of the achene. Nutritional analysis shows that this organ is high in fat and protein. Further experiments using solvent extracts of the achenes suggest that the attraction is likely mediated by volatile compounds.