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A mimetic nesting association between a timid social wasp and an aggressive arboreal ant

Corbara, Bruno, Servigne, Pablo, Dejean, Alain, Carpenter, James M., Orivel, Jérôme
Comptes rendus 2018 v.341 no.3 pp. 182-188
Formicidae, aggression, commensalism, leaves, nesting, social wasps, trees, French Guiana
In French Guiana, the arboreal nests of the swarm-founding social wasp Protopolybia emortualis (Polistinae) are generally found near those of the arboreal dolichoderine ant Dolichoderus bidens. These wasp nests are typically protected by an envelope, which in turn is covered by an additional carton ‘shelter’ with structure resembling the D. bidens nests. A few wasps constantly guard their nest to keep D. bidens workers from approaching. When alarmed by a strong disturbance, the ants invade the host tree foliage whereas the wasps retreat into their nest. Notably, there is no chemical convergence in the cuticular profiles of the wasps and ants sharing a tree. The aggressiveness of D. bidens likely protects the wasps from army ant raids, but the ants do not benefit from the presence of the wasps; therefore, this relationship corresponds to a kind of commensalism.