The effects of food quantity on the morphology and development of the paper wasp Polistes metricus Say are studied, and experimental results are compared with predictions of the parental manipulation hypothesis. Food deprivation led to smaller female offspring. By hand feeding larvae we used a technique that counteracts the queen’s hypothesized ability to restrict food provisioning. Hand feeding larvae did not result in larger offspring, but their abdomen was wider and heavier and the hand-fed wasps survived longer in a cold test. We infer that hand-fed colonies produced more gynes and fewer workers than did control colonies. Results of a restricted nourishment treatment do not support the differential feeding hypothesis, because in fasting colonies the emergence of all larvae was delayed by a month, and we did not detect discriminatory feeding of particular larvae for faster emergence. Although fasting colonies produced fewer offspring, the sex ratio did not show significant differences from the other groups. These data suggest that Polistes metricus colonies are partly able to respond to different nutritional conditions by allocating excess food to increase the number of gynes at the expense of workers.
Keywords: Polistes metricus; caste; nutrition; parental manipulation; phenotypic plasticity; social wasp
Journal Article. 6063 words. Illustrated.