Simultaneous Care of More Than One Nest by Ammophila Azteca Cameron (Hymenoptera, Sphecidae)

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In attempting to trace the origin of social behavior among wasps, in his Social Life Among the Insects (1923), William Morton Wheeler selected Ammophila as "a paradigm of the whole group of Sphecoids and solitary Vespoids". Were he alive today, and able to utilize all the considerable knowledge of this genus gained in the last three decades, it seems likely that he would embrace Ammophila even more enthusiastically as a paradigm not only of the solitary wasps but of several preliminary stages in the origin of sociality. It has been shown by Evans (1958, 1959) and by Powell (1964) that the North American species of this genus which have been studied can be arranged in series as follows: (I) strictly solitary species which utilize a single large caterpillar per nest, (2) species which mass-provision with two to several small caterpillars, (3) species in which provisioning is commonly "delayedH such that the last prey is brought in after the egg has hatched, and (4) species employing progressive provisioning regularly. Several other aspects of behavior are roughly correlated with this progression : for example, species using smaller caterpillars usually carry the prey in flight, and these same species generally carry the soil of excavation away from the nest in flight. Also, most records of gregarious nesting pertain to species employing progressive provisioning. It is apparent that the European species can be arranged in a very similar series (Adriaanse, 1947 ; Teschner, 1959). One European species, A. pubescens Curtis, illustrates still a fifth stage in this ethocline: the female maintains two or three nests at one time, remembering the location of each of them accurately and behaving in accordance with the status of the egg or larva in each nest as deter- mined during frequent inspections (Baerends, 1941). Simultaneous care of more than one nest is otherwise virtually unknown among digger wasps, although a few species of Bembicini which make more than one cell per nest are reputed to begin provisioning a second cell




Evans, H. E. (1965). Simultaneous Care of More Than One Nest by Ammophila Azteca Cameron (Hymenoptera, Sphecidae). Psyche (New York), 72(1), 8–23.

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