Watch out below: wasps battle ants by dropping them

ImageOne of the most successful invasive species is the common wasp, Vespula vulgaris. Dr Julien Grangier recently demonstrated how foragers of this wasp have adopted previously unknown interference behaviour when competing for food with native ants. Picking their opponents up in their mandibles, flying backward and dropping them some distance away from the disputed resource, wasps were shown to efficiently deal with a yet aggressive competitor. The wasps modulate this behaviour according to various circumstances including the abundance of ants. In this second paper we further discuss the nature and functioning of this unusual strategy. We first highlight the questions this interaction raises regarding the competitive advantages offered by asymmetries in body size and flight ability. Then, we argue that this study system illustrates the important role of behavioural plasticity in biological invasions: not only in the success of invaders but also in the ability of native species to coexist with these invaders.

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Our initial paper describing this behaviour was published in BIOLOGY LETTERS. Associated with this article was a video published in YouTube, which has been viewed over 60,000 times. We were invited to publish this paper in COMMUNICATIVE & INTEGRATIVE BIOLOGY in 2012. The work was covered in the journal Science and the National Geographic.