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J Insect Physiol. 2010 Jan;56(1):42-56. doi: 10.1016/j.jinsphys.2009.09.002.

A nutritional profile of the social wasp Polistes metricus: differences in nutrient levels between castes and changes within castes during the annual life cycle.

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Department of Biology, Southeast Missouri State University, Cape Girardeau MO, 63701, USA.


In wasps, nutrition plays a vital role for colony cohesion and caste determination. However, there is no baseline data set for the nutritional levels of wasps during the different stages of the colony cycle. Here we examined the levels of carbohydrates, lipids, protein, Ca, Cu, Fe, K, Mg, Mn, Na, and Zn in the wasp Polistes metricus at different stages of the wasp's lifecycle. Individuals were collected at the following stages (1) spring gynes, (2) foundress colonies, (3) early worker colonies, (4) late worker colonies, (5) emerging reproductives (gynes and males), (6) early fall reproductives, and (7) late fall reproductives. All eggs, larvae, pupae and adults were analyzed for their nutritional content to determine if there were any differences between the nutrient levels in the different castes and how these nutrients changed within a caste during its lifetime. The results show there are differences in macro and micronutrient levels between the reproductive females and workers during development. Gynes showed changes in nutrient levels during their lifetime especially as they changed roles from a solitary individual to a nesting queen. Males also showed distinct nutritional changes during their lifetime. The implications for these nutritional differences are discussed.

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