Insect social life is governed by chemicals. A great number of studies have demonstrated that the blend of hydrocarbons present on the cuticle (CHCs) plays a pivotal role in intra- and inter-specific communication. It is not surprising, therefore, that social parasites, specialized in exploiting the costly parental care provided by host workers, exploit the host chemical communication system too. Throughout their life cycle, social parasites intercept and break this CHC-based code. Recently, however, several polar compounds (mainly peptides) have been found in addition to CHCs both on the cuticle and on the comb surface of social insects, and their semiochemical role has been demonstrated in some circumstances. In the present study, we used the paper wasp social parasite–host system Polistes sulcifer (Zimmerman)–Polistes dominulus (Christ) to evaluate the relative importance of the CHCs and polar compounds in two different steps of the host exploitation process: host nest detection by the pre-usurping parasite and parasite chemical integration into the host colony. After separating the polar and apolar fractions of the host nest as well as those of pre- and post-usurpation parasites, we carried out laboratory assays based on the binary choice model. Our results show that nest polar compounds neither are used by the parasite to detect the host’s nest nor play a role in parasite chemical integration into the host colony. In contrast, we demonstrate that CHCs are fundamental in both steps, thus confirming their primary role in social insect life and consequently in social parasite–host interactions.

The chemical basis of host nest detection and chemical integration in a cuckoo paper wasp

CINI, ALESSANDRO;
2011

Abstract

Insect social life is governed by chemicals. A great number of studies have demonstrated that the blend of hydrocarbons present on the cuticle (CHCs) plays a pivotal role in intra- and inter-specific communication. It is not surprising, therefore, that social parasites, specialized in exploiting the costly parental care provided by host workers, exploit the host chemical communication system too. Throughout their life cycle, social parasites intercept and break this CHC-based code. Recently, however, several polar compounds (mainly peptides) have been found in addition to CHCs both on the cuticle and on the comb surface of social insects, and their semiochemical role has been demonstrated in some circumstances. In the present study, we used the paper wasp social parasite–host system Polistes sulcifer (Zimmerman)–Polistes dominulus (Christ) to evaluate the relative importance of the CHCs and polar compounds in two different steps of the host exploitation process: host nest detection by the pre-usurping parasite and parasite chemical integration into the host colony. After separating the polar and apolar fractions of the host nest as well as those of pre- and post-usurpation parasites, we carried out laboratory assays based on the binary choice model. Our results show that nest polar compounds neither are used by the parasite to detect the host’s nest nor play a role in parasite chemical integration into the host colony. In contrast, we demonstrate that CHCs are fundamental in both steps, thus confirming their primary role in social insect life and consequently in social parasite–host interactions.
Cini, Alessandro; Bruschini, Claudia; Signorotti, L.; Pontieri, L.; Turilazzi, S.; Cervo, Rita
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11568/1141857
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