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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Wapato, Washington » Temperate Tree Fruit and Vegetable Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #336285

Research Project: New Technologies and Strategies to Manage the Changing Pest Complex on Temperate Fruit Trees

Location: Temperate Tree Fruit and Vegetable Research

Title: Evidence for sex pheromones and inbreeding avoidance in select North America yellowjacket species (Hymenoptera: Vespidae)

item DERSTINE, NATHAN - Simon Fraser University
item OHLER, BONNIE - University Of Wisconsin
item JIMENEZ, SEBASTIAN - Simon Fraser University
item Landolt, Peter
item GRIES, GERHARD - Simon Fraser University

Submitted to: Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/28/2017
Publication Date: 7/20/2017
Citation: Derstine, N., Ohler, B., Jimenez, S., Landolt, P.J., Gries, G. 2017. Evidence for sex pheromones and inbreeding avoidance in select North America yellowjacket species (Hymenoptera: Vespidae). Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata. doi:10.1111/eea12591.

Interpretive Summary: Social wasps are a stinging hazard, including in many fruit cropping systems where they also do direct feeding damage to trees and fruits. Chemical attractants are of use against these wasps as lures for traps and baits. Researchers at the USDA-ARS Laboratories in Wapato, WA, in collaboration with scientists at Simon-Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada, tested the hypothesis that new queens of yellowjacket wasps produce a sex pheromone that attracts males for the purpose of mating. They found evidence of a long range attractive pheromone produced by queens of the aerial yellowjacket, and a shorter range attractant produced by queens of the bald faced hornet. This work suggests that pheromones of these two and other species might be isolated and identified as a lure for trapping male wasps and potentially reducing queen fertility.

Technical Abstract: Little is known about the roles of sex pheromones in mate-finding behavior of social wasps (Vespidae). Working with the aerial yellowjacket, Dolichovespula arenaria (Fabricius), baldfaced hornet, D. maculata (L.), western yellowjacket, Vespula pensylvanica (Saussure), southern yellowjacket, V. squamosa (Drury), and V. alascensis Packard, we tested the hypotheses (1) that gynes produce an airborne sex pheromone attractive to males, and (2) that males are more strongly attracted to non-sibling gynes based on olfactory cues. A field experiment provided the first definitive evidence that D. arenaria gynes attract males. Surprisingly, we did not find such evidence in similar field experiments for sexual attractiveness of gynes of V. squamosa, V. pensylvanica, V. alascensis, or D. maculata. Y-tube olfactometer experiments with D. maculata , D. arenaria and V. pensylvanica male attraction to gynes in D. maculata provided they were non-siblings, implying an olfactory-based mechanism of nest mate recognition and inbreeding avoidance. Lack of sex attraction responses for V. pensylvanica, V. alascensis, and V. squamosa in this study does not rule out pheromone-mediated sexual communication. Instead, it highlights the possibility that pheromonal signaling may be dependent upon the presence of appropriate contextual cues.