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Males Rule in Costa Rican Wasp Species

In most species of social insects, such as wasps, bees, and ants, the females rule. The females are the workers. They are the ones to go out and get the food, and they are also the ones to care for the queen, the larvae, and the nest in general. The males of these species of insects are typically lazy, and they bare the brunt of much abuse. They’re sometimes bitten, fed scraps, and chased out of the home for good by their sisters not long after they’re born.

Not only that, but among paper wasps in the United States the females practice what scientists call “male stuffing.” When a worker brings food home to the nest, her sisters shove their brothers headfirst into empty nest cells to prevent them from consuming any of the food.

Behavior like this, however, is reversed in a Costa Rican wasp species. The males in this species not only attack their sisters, who curl into submissive positions or flee, but they steal food from the queen herself, their very own mother.

These wasps live in a cloud forest in Costa Rica. Whereas wasp colonies in temperate zones can only reproduce for a brief period in the summer, these colonies can mate year round. Thus, a scientist studying these wasps proposes that it’s in the females’ interest to put up with the abuse of their brothers and to let them hang around longer because it increases the males chances of mating with queens from other nests, which makes the colony more biologically fit.

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