Master of Science (MS)
Phylogenetic studies suggest that historically all paper wasps (Vespidae: Polistinae) in North America have tropical origins. However, paper wasps have adapted to thrive in temperate conditions. Subtropical and temperate climates allow for a study of adaptive traits which can be retained or lost within populations, and ultimately help elucidate the process of social wasp evolution. Additionally, species occurrence patterns can help us to understand partitioning and resource use within populations. We investigated the occurrence and phenology of each Polistine species found at four sites in southern Louisiana around Baton Rouge, and also examined the occurrence and behavior of a closely associated brood parasite, Chalcoela iphitalis. Based on nest height analysis we found two statistically different groupings: lower nesting species (Mischocyttarus mexicanus, Polistes dorsalis, P. metricus) and higher nesting species (P. exclamans, P. fuscatus, P. bellicosus). Patterns of occurrence in wasp nest attachment substrate also were found, with 32% of all nests occurring on Sabal palmetto or Sabal minor. Two periods of nest initiation were observed: spring nests in March-May and late season or fall nests in July-September. Late season nests made up roughly 40% of all nests observed and were represented by all species. Late season nests of P. dorsalis, P. bellicosus, P. metricus, and M. mexicanus demonstrated a significantly shorter colony duration than did spring nests, however the highest number of adults recorded at the nest was significantly less only in P. bellicosus. Results suggest niche portioning between species in relation to nest site usage, as well as a possible bivoltine colony cycle in some paper wasp species of southern Louisiana.
Document Availability at the Time of Submission
Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.
Nacko, Scott, "Occurrence and Phenology of Polistine Wasps (Hymenoptera: Vespidae) in Southern Louisiana" (2017). LSU Master's Theses. 4593.