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Title: Viral load, not food availability or temperature, predicts colony longevity in an invasive eusocial wasp with plastic life history
Abstract Social insect colonies exhibit a variety of life history strategies, from the annual, semelparous colonies of temperate bees and wasps to the long-lived colonies of many ants and honeybees. Species introduced to novel habitats may exhibit plasticity in life history strategies as a result of the introduction, but the factors governing these changes often remain obscure. Vespula pensylvanica , a yellowjacket wasp, exhibits such plasticity in colony longevity. Multi-year (perennial) colonies are relatively common in introduced populations in Hawaii, while source populations in the western United States are typically on an annual cycle. Here, we use experiments and observational data to examine how diet, disease, nest thermal environment, and nest location influence colony longevity in a population with both annual and perennial colonies. Counter to our predictions, experimental feeding and warming did not increase colony survival in the winter in the introduced range. However, Moku Virus load and wasp colony density predicted colony survival in one year, suggesting a potential role for disease in modulating colony phenology. We also found that local V. pensylvanica colony density was positively correlated with Moku Virus loads, and that Arsenophonus sp. bacterial loads in V. pensylvanica colonies were positively associated with proximity to feral honeybee ( Apis mellifera ) hives, suggesting potential transmission routes for these poorly understood symbionts. The factors influencing colony longevity in this population are likely multiple and interactive. More important than food availability, we propose winter precipitation as a critical factor that may explain temporal and spatial variation in colony longevity in these invasive wasps.  more » « less
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Scientific Reports
Medium: X
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National Science Foundation
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