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More Fun Than Fun : Chasing Wasps on a Bicycle – and Getting a PhD.

Gadagkar, R (2021) More Fun Than Fun : Chasing Wasps on a Bicycle – and Getting a PhD. In: The Wire .

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I confess to having been in love with the Indian paper wasp (Ropalidia marginata) for over 50 years. For almost 40 of these 50 years, it has also been the sole object of my scientific research, much of which I have pursued in collaboration with a large number of students, equally passionate to probe the mysteries of this amazing insect society. Female wasps scrape cellulose fibres from the surrounding vegetation to manufacture paper and construct honeycomb-like nests. One of the female wasps in the colony assumes the role of the queen and lays eggs in the hexagonal cells. The remaining female wasps function as non-reproducing workers. They cooperatively build and repair the nest, clean and defend it from parasites and predators, including other wasps of their own species. Older wasps also venture outside the nest to hunt for soft-bodied insects and spiders, which they bring back to the nest and share with their adult nestmates and feed to the growing larvae. They are called foragers. Like any insect society, the wasps display impressive levels of communication, coordination and division of labour. They appear to tread a delicate balance between cooperation and conflict, especially because workers can potentially overthrow their queens and take over their role of leave to start their own new nests, often taking a small number of loyal followers with them. Not surprisingly, sitting in front of a nest, with the wasps marked with coloured paint spots for individual identification, can be the source of endless pleasure and innumerable opportunities to probe the evolutionary logic behind every behaviour of the wasps.

Item Type: Editorials/Short Communications
Publication: The Wire
Department/Centre: Division of Biological Sciences > Centre for Ecological Sciences
Date Deposited: 25 Jun 2021 05:12
Last Modified: 25 Jun 2021 05:12
URI: http://eprints.iisc.ac.in/id/eprint/68676

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