About the Paper Wasp Project

Paper Wasp Research Project


Our work is carried out in collaboration with Professor Jeremy Field from the University of Sussex. Jeremy is a world leading authority on the social evolution of wasps and bees. He was Michael Cant’s supervisor for his first post-doctoral position, and together they founded a study of P. dominula at Conil.

About the Study Species


We study a species of paper wasp called Polistes dominula at a site near Conil de la Frontera in southern Spain. Paper wasps are an ideal model system to test theories about how cooperation evolves and is maintained. Each spring some females (called foundresses) start a nest on their own, while others in the same population join a team and build a nest together. In these teams only one female lays eggs while the rest do most of the work to provision her offspring. So the question is, why do these females forego their own chance to reproduce? They are all mated and have sperm stored and ready to use, so why don’t they move next door and become a breeder in their own right? A population in which some individuals are cooperative and others are solitary offers a great opportunity to unravel the evolution of cooperative behaviour.