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Annu Rev Entomol. 2000;45:121-50.

Social wasp (Hymenoptera: Vespidae) foraging behavior.

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Department of Biology, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York 12866-1632, USA.


Social wasps (Hymenoptera: Vespidae) forage for water, pulp, carbohydrates, and animal protein. When hunting, social wasps are opportunistic generalists and use a variety of mechanisms to locate and choose prey. Individual foragers are influenced by past foraging experience and by the presence of other foragers on resources. A forager's ability to learn odors and landmarks, which direct its return to foraging sites, and to associate cues such as odor or leaf damage with resource availability provide the behavioral foundation for facultative specialization by individual foragers. Social wasps, by virtue of their behavior and numbers, have a large impact on other organisms by consuming them directly. Indirect effects such as disruption of prey and resource depletion may also be important. Community-level impacts are particularly apparent when wasps feed upon clumped prey vulnerable to depredation by returning foragers, or when species with large, long-lived colonies are introduced into island communities. A clearer understanding of these relationships may provide insight into impacts of generalist predators on the evolution of their prey.

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