Get Stuffed

WASPS – Male Stuffingambience: bird songHeres a program from our archives.They’re born; they get stuffed; they mate and they die. So goes the brief life of the male paper wasp. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet.Phil Starks is a PhD candidate in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior at Cornell University. He tells us that male paper wasps are born into a nest full of siblings, as well as larval wasps which will develop later in the season. Like many big families, the wasp’s nest is far from peaceful.Starks: We noticed an absurd amount of aggression really between nest mates. Wasps are often aggressive with each other but this was really shocking actually. The female will grab a male; she will bite up and down on its back and then force the male head first into an empty nest cell. I call that male stuffing. Now what’s interesting is that males are stuffed shortly after a female wasp goes back to the nest with food. It’s like they are precluding the male from coming into contact with the food items. The females take the food and they’ll feed it to the larvae.One explanation for this male stuffing is that female wasps have stronger genetic ties to their female siblings – they’re more closely related to their female relatives than the males.Starks: So there’s a genetic benefit by keeping the male away from the food so long as they’re feeding female larvae and since males are lazy and they don’t go off and do any work, the males aren’t going to be bringing any food back to the nest anyhow. So the females might as well channel the food to the needy larvae.And as for the males who’ve been stuffed into empty cells, they’ll eventually escape, leave the nest to mate and then die with the onset of winter. Weve been listening to a program from our archives. If you want to hear more, check out our podcast.Im Jim Metzner and this is thePulse of the Planet.

Get Stuffed

It's a tough life for male paper wasps.
Air Date:06/15/2021
Scientist:
Transcript:

WASPS - Male Stuffingambience: bird songHeres a program from our archives.They're born; they get stuffed; they mate and they die. So goes the brief life of the male paper wasp. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet.Phil Starks is a PhD candidate in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior at Cornell University. He tells us that male paper wasps are born into a nest full of siblings, as well as larval wasps which will develop later in the season. Like many big families, the wasp's nest is far from peaceful.Starks: We noticed an absurd amount of aggression really between nest mates. Wasps are often aggressive with each other but this was really shocking actually. The female will grab a male; she will bite up and down on its back and then force the male head first into an empty nest cell. I call that male stuffing. Now what's interesting is that males are stuffed shortly after a female wasp goes back to the nest with food. It's like they are precluding the male from coming into contact with the food items. The females take the food and they'll feed it to the larvae.One explanation for this male stuffing is that female wasps have stronger genetic ties to their female siblings - they're more closely related to their female relatives than the males.Starks: So there's a genetic benefit by keeping the male away from the food so long as they're feeding female larvae and since males are lazy and they don't go off and do any work, the males aren't going to be bringing any food back to the nest anyhow. So the females might as well channel the food to the needy larvae.And as for the males who've been stuffed into empty cells, they'll eventually escape, leave the nest to mate and then die with the onset of winter. Weve been listening to a program from our archives. If you want to hear more, check out our podcast.Im Jim Metzner and this is thePulse of the Planet.