Things We Don’t Know About West Indian Social Wasps

Christopher K. Starr


The known social wasps of the islands of the West Indies comprise 31 independent-founding and 20  swarm-founding species. Within the region, most are found only on the continental islands of Trinidad and Tobago.  The present state of our nesting-biological knowledge of these 51 species is very variable. This is  summarised in tabular form as a way of drawing attention to aspects that have not yet been studied.  In addition, 21 scientific problems of various magnitudes are outlined. Of these, 19 have to do  with social wasp  in the formal sense (Vespidae: Polistinae in our area), while the other two concern members of the family Crabronidae.

Full Text:



Bohart, R.M. and Menke, A.S. 1976. Sphecid Wasps of the World. Berkeley: Univ. California Press. 695 p.

Carpenter, J.M. and Ross, K.G. 1984. Colony composition in four species of Polistinae from Suriname, with a description of the larva of Brachygastra scutellaris (Hymenoptera: Vespidae). Psyche, 91: 237-50.

Castellón, E.G. 1980a. Reprodução e dinâmica de populaçao em Synoeca surinama (Hymenoptera: Vespidae). Acta Amazȏnica, 10: 679-90.

Castellón, E.G. 1980b. Orientação, arquitetura e construção dos ninhos de Synoeca surinama (L.) (Hymenoptera; Vespidae). Acta Amazȏnica, 10: 883-96.

Castellón, E.G. 1982. Comportamento e causas da migração de Synoeca surinama L. (Hymenoptera: Vespidae), na Amazonia Brasiliera. Revista Brasileira de Entomologia, 26: 71-74.

Chavarria-Pizarro, L. and West-Eberhard, M.J. 2010. The behavior and natural history of Chartergellus, a little-known genus of Neotropical social wasps (Vespidae Polistini Epiponini). Ethology, Ecology & Evolution, 22: 317-43.

Clouse, R. 2001. Some effects of group size on the output of beginning nests of Mischocyttarus mexicanus (Hymenoptera: Vespidae). Florida Entomologist, 54: 418-25.

Cooper, M. 1986. Nests of Stelopolybia cajennensis (F.) Vespidae-Polistinae). Sphecos, 11: 17.

Corn, M.L. 1972. Notes on the biology of Polistes carnifex (Hymenoptera: Vespidae) in Costa Rica and Colombia. Psyche, 79: 150-57.

Cruz, J.D. da, Giannotti, E., Santos, G.M.M., Bichara-Filho, C.C. and da Rocha, A.A. 2006. Nest site selection and flying capacity of the Neotropical wasp Angiopolybia pallens (Hymenoptera: Vespidae) in the Atlantic Rainforest, Bahia State, Brazil. Sociobiology, 47: 739-50.

Dejean, A., Céréghino, R., Carpenter, J.M., Corbara, B., Hérault, B., Rossi, V., Leponce, M., Orivel, J. and Bonal, D. 2011. Climate change impact on Neotropical social wasps. PLoS ONE, 6(11): e27004.

Dew, H.E. and Michener, C.D. 1978. Foraging flights of two species of Polistes wasps (Hymenoptera: Vespidae). Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society, 51: 380-85.

Downing, H.A. and Jeanne, R.L. 1986. Intra- and inter- specific variation in nest architecture in the paper wasps, Polistes (Hymenoptera: Vespidae). Insectes Sociaux, 33: 422-43.

Forsyth, A.B. 1980. Nest site and habitat selection by the social wasp Metapolybia azteca Araujo (Hymenoptera: Vespidae). Brenesia, 17:157-62.

Forsyth, A.B. 1981. Swarming activity of polybiine social wasps (Hymenoptera: Vespidae: Polybiini). Biotropica, 13: 93-99.

Giannotti, E. 1998. On the nest of Agelaia multipicta (Haliday 1836) and description of the mature larva (Hymenoptera, Vespidae). Revista Brasileira de Entomologia, 42: 97-99.

Giannotti, E. and Machado, V.L.L. 1994a. Longevity, life table and age polymorphism in Polistes lanio lanio (Hymenoptera: Vespidae), a primitive eusocial wasp. Journal of Advances in Zoology, 15: 95-101.

Giannotti, E. and Machado, V.L.L. 1994b. Colonial phenology of Polistes lanio lanio (Fabricius 1775) (Hymenoptera, Vespidae). Revista Brasileira de Entomologia, 38: 639-43.

Giannotti, E. and Machado, V.L.L. 1999. Behavioral castes in the primitively eusocial wasp Polistes lanio lanio Fabricius (Hymenoptera, Vespidae). Revista Brasileira de Entomologia, 41: 217-24.

Giannotti, E. and Mansur, C.B. 1993. Dispersion and foundation of new colonies in Polistes versicolor (Hymenoptera, Vespidae). Anais da Sociedade Entmolȏgica do Brasil, 22: 307-16.

Giannotti, E., Prezoto, F. and Machado, V.L.L. 1995. Foraging activity of Polistes lanio lanio (Fabr.) (Hymenoptera: Vespidae). Anais da Sociedade Entmolȏgica do Brasil, 24: 455-63.

Gobbi, N., Machado, V.L.L. and Tavares-Filho, J.A. 1984. Sazonalidade das presas utilizadas na alimentaçao de Polybia occidentalis occidentalis (Olivier 1791) (Hym., Vespidae). Anais da Sociedade Entmolȏgica do Brasil, 13: 63-69.

Gobbi, N., Sakagami, S.F. and Zucchi, R. 1991. Nesting biology of a quasisocial sphecid wasp, Trypoxylon fabricator. II. Life history of nests and adult behaviors on nests. Japanese Journal of Entomology, 59: 37-51.

Gobbi, N. and Zucchi, R. 1985. On the ecology of Polistes versicolor versicolor (Olivier) in southern Brazil (Hymenoptera, Vespidae, Polistini). II. Colonial productivity. Naturalia (S. Paulo), 10: 21-25.

Greene, A. 1984. Production schedules of vespine wasps: an empirical test of the bang-bang production model. Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society, 57: 545-68.

Hermann, H.R. and Chao, J.T. 1984. Nesting biology and defensive behavior of Mischocyttarus (Monocyttarus) mexicanus cubicola (Vespidae: Polistinae). Psyche, 91: 51-65.

Hermann, H.R., González, J.M. and Hermann, B.S. 1985. Mischocyttarus mexicanus cubicola (Hymenoptera), distribution and nesting plants. Florida Entomologist, 68: 609-14.

Hernández, D.J., Sarmiento, C.E. and Fernández, H.C. 2009. Actividad de forrajeo de Polybia occidentalis venezuelana (Hymenoptera, Vespidae). Revista Colombiana de Entomología, 35: 230-34.

Hook, A.W. 2011. Behavioral ecology of a communal nesting mud-dauber wasp, Trypoxylon manni (Hymenoptera: Crabronidae) in Trinidad, West Indies. Living World (Port of Spain), 2011 (Supplement 2): 33.

Hunt, J.H., Jeanne, R.L. and Keeping, M.G. 1995. Observations of Apoica pallens, a nocturnal Neotropical social wasp (Hymenoptera: Vespidae, Polistinae, Epiponini). Insectes Sociaux, 42: 223-36.

Jeanne, R.L. 1972. Social biology of the Neotropical wasp Mischocyttarus drewseni. Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University, 144: 63-150.

Jeanne, R.L. 1991. The swarm-founding Polistinae. p. 191-231. In K.G. Ross and R.W. Matthews, eds. The Social Biology of Wasps. Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press. 678 p.

Kadir, J., Lewis, R. and Starr, C.K. 2006. Notes on niche separation in the Neotropical social wasps Polistes lanio and Polistes versicolor (Hymenoptera: Vespidae). Living World, Journal of The Trinidad and Tobago Field Naturalists’ Club, 2006: 27-29.

Litte, M. 1977. Behavioral ecology of the social wasp Mischocyttarus mexicanus. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 2: 229-46.

Litte, M. 1981. Social biology of the polistine wasp Mischocyttarus labiatus: survival in a Colombian rain forest. Smithsonian Contributions to Zoology, 327: 1-27.

Machado, V.L.L. 1977a. Estudos biológicos de Polybia occidentalis occidentalis (Olivier 1791) (Hymenoptera; Vespidae). Anais da Sociedade Entmolȏgica do Brasil, 6: 7-24.

Machado, V.L.L. 1977b. Aspectos da biologia de Protopolybia pumila (Saussure 1863) (Hym., Vespidae). Revis- ta Brasileira de Biologia, 37: 771-84.

Machado, V.L.L., Gobbi, N. and Simões, D. 1987. Mate rial capturado e utilizado na alimentação de Stelopolybia pallipes (Olivier 1791) (Hymenoptera-Vespidae). Anais da Sociedade Entmolȏgica do Brasil, 16: 73-79.

Matthews, R.W. 1991. Evolution of social behavior in sphecid wasps. p. 570-602. In K.G. Ross and R.W. Matthews, eds. The Social Biology of Wasps. Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press. 678 p.

Melo, G.A.R. and Matthews, R.W. 1997. Six new species of Microstigmus wasps (Hymenoptera: Sphecidae), with notes on their biology. Journal of Natural History, 31: 421-37.

Michener, C.D. 1974. The Social Behavior of Bees. Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press. 404 p.

Milne-Edwards, H. 1843. Note on the nest of Epipona tatua. Annales de la Société Entomologique de France, (2) 1: xxxiv-xxxv.

O’Connor, T.K., Starr, C.K. and Cameron, S.A. 2011. The Neotropical social wasp Mischocyttarus “alfkenii” is a pair of ethospecies. Systematic Entomology, 31: 446-52.

O’Donnell, S. 1995. Necrophagy by Neotropical swarm-founding wasps (Hymenoptera: Vespidae: Epiponini). Biotropica, 27:133-36.

Oster, G.F. and Wilson, E.O. 1978. Caste and Ecology in the Social Insects. Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press. 352 p.

Paula, L.C., Andrade, F.R. and Prezoto, F. 2003. Foraging behavior in the Neotropical swarm-founding wasp Parachartergus fraternus (Hymenoptera: Vespidae: Polistinae: Epiponini) during different phases of the biological cycle. Sociobiology, 42: 735-44.

Post, D.C., Jeanne, R.L. and Erickson, E.H. 1988. Variation in behavior among workers of the primitively social wasp Polistes fuscatus variatus. p. 283-321 In R.J. Jeanne, ed. Interindividual Behavioral Variability in Social Insects. Westview Press: Boulder, Co. 456 p.

Prezoto, F., Santos-Prezoto, H.H., Machado, V.L.L. and Zanuncio, J.C. 2006. Prey captured and used in Polistes versicolor (Olivier) (Hymenoptera: Vespidae) nourishment. Neotropical Entomology, 35: 707-09.

Reeve, H.K. 1991. Polistes. p. 99-148. In K.G. Ross and R.W. Matthews, eds. The Social Biology of Wasps. Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press. 678 p.

Resende, J.J., Santos, G.M. de M., Bichara-Filho, C.C. and Gimenes, M. 2001. Atividade diária de busca de recursos pela vespa social Polybia occidentalis occidentalis (Olivier 1791) (Hymenoptera, Vespidae). Revista Brasileira de Zoociências, 3: 105-15.

Richards, O.W. 1978. The Social Wasps of the Americas, Excluding the Vespinae. London: British Museum (Natural History). 580 p.

Richards, O.W. and Richards, M.J. 1951. Observations on the social wasps of South America (Hymenoptera: Vespidae). Transactions of the Royal Entomological Society of London, 102:1-170.

Sakagami, S.F., Gobbi, N. and Zucchi, R. 1990. Nesting biology of a quasisocial sphecid wasp, Trypoxylon fabricator. I. Nests and inhabitants. Japanese Journal of Entomology, 58: 846-62.

Schmidt, J.O. 1990. Hymenopteran venoms: Striving toward the ultimate defense against vertebrates. p. 387-419. In D.L. Evans and J.O. Schmidt, eds. Insect Defenses. Albany: SUNY Press. 482 p.

Schremmer, F. 1972. Beobachtungen zur Biologie von Apoica pallida (Olivier 1791), einer neotropischen sozialen Faltenwespe (Hymenoptera: Vespidae). Insectes Sociaux, 19: 343-57.

Scobie, A.A. and Starr, C.K. 2012. Nest structure of the Neotropical social wasp Mischocyttarus baconi (Hymenoptera: Vespidae). Sociobiology, 59: 235-39.

Seeley, T.D. 1995. The Wisdom of the Hive. Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press. 295 p.

Silva-Filho, R., Cassino, P.C.R., Marques, O.M., Penteado-Dias, A.M., Rodrigues, W.C. and Zanuncio, J.C. 2007. Parasitoids of Polistes lanio lanio (Hymenoptera: Vespidae) larvae in the municipality of Seropédica, Rio de Janeiro state, Brazil. Sociobiology, 50: 1191-98.

Silva, M.N. da 1981. Ciclo de Desenvolvimento das Colônias de Mischocyttarus (Kappa) atramentarius Zikán, 1949 (Hym.-Vespidae): Fase de Pré-emergência. MSc Thesis, Univ. Estadual Paulista “Júlio de Mesquite Filho”, Rio Claro. 200 p.

Silveira, O.T., Esposito, M.C., dos Santos, J.N. and Gemaque, F.E. 2005. Social wasps and bees captured in carrion traps in a rainforest in Brazil. Entomological Science (Japan), 8: 33-39.

Simonthomas, R.T. 1982. Notes on the nests and polymorphism of Polistes (Aphanilopterus) crinitus multicolor (Olivier) in the Netherlands’ Antilles (Hym.: Vespidae, Polistinae). Entomologische Berichten, 42: 191-92.

Smith, E.F. 2004. Nest sites of the paper wasp Mischocyttarus collarellus (Hymenoptera: Vespidae: Polistinae) in a lowland tropical rainforest. Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society, 77: 457-69.

Spiller, D.A. and Schoener, T.W. 2009. Species-area relationship. p. 857-61. In R.G. Gillespie and D.A. Clague, eds. Encyclopedia of Islands. Berkeley: Univ. California Press. 1111 p.

Starr, C.K. 1990. Holding the fort: Colony defense in some primitively social wasps. p. 421-63. In D.L. Evans and J.O. Schmidt, eds. Insect Defenses. Albany: SUNY Press. 482 p.

Starr, C.K. 1991. The nest as the locus of social life. p. 520-39. In K.G. Ross and R.W. Matthews, eds. The Social Biology of Wasps. Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press. 678 p.

Starr, C.K. and Hook, A.W. 2003. The aculeate Hymenoptera of Trinidad, West Indies. Occasional Papers of the Department of Life Sciences, University of the West Indies, (12): 1-31. Revised version at http:www.ckstarr. netaculeates.pdf.

Strassmann, J.E., Meyer, D.C. and Matlock, R.L. 1984a. Behavioral castes in the social wasp, Polistes exclamans. Sociobiology, 8: 211-24.

Strassmann, J.E., Queller, D.C., Solis, C.R. and Hughes, C.R. 1991. Relatedness and queen number in the Neotropical wasp Parachartergus colopterus. Animal Behaviour, 42: 461-70.

Wake, D.B. 2003. Foreword. p. vii-x. In R.D. Semlitsch, ed. Amphibian Conservation. Washington: Smithsonian Inst. 336 p.

Wenzel, J.W. 1998. A generic key to the nests of hornets, yellowjackets, and paper wasps worldwide (Vespidea: Vespinae, Polistinae). American Museum Novitates, (3224): 1-39.

White, S. and Starr, C.K. 2013. The comings and goings of Agelaia multipicta. Living World, Journal of The Trinidad and Tobago Field Naturalists’ Club, 2013: 59-60.


  • There are currently no refbacks.