Even though humans may be scared of wasps because of the dreaded sting but recent research reveals that the insects are more selfless than most of us. A team of biologists from the universities of Bristol, Exeter and University College London has found that Neotropical wasps whose scientific name is (Polistes canadensis) will look after their distant relatives if their own family is well off on their own.
The study, published on Monday in the Nature Ecology & Evolution journal, was led by Dr Patrick Kennedy from the University of Bristol and also included Professor Seirian Sumner from the UCL Genetics, Evolution & Environment, Professor Andy Radford, P. Botha from School of Biological Sciences, N. J. Welton from Population Health Sciences, Bristol Medical School, University of Bristol, and A. D. Higginson from the Centre for Research in Animal Behaviour, University of Exeter.
The team of scientists observed nearly 20,000 baby wasps and their care-givers in colonies around the Panama Canal and determined the usefulness of workers on colonies of different sizes. The study found that workers in bee colonies become less useful as the number of members rise due to a surplus of help.
In a statement to University College London, lead author Dr Patrick Kennedy said that their observations found that wasps can act like rich family members who lend a helping hand to their second cousins. If there is not much more they can do to help their immediate family, they can turn their attention to the extended family.
Co-author of the study Professor Seirian Sumner said that wasps offer an amazing insight into the evolution of altruism in organisms. A wasp nest has a lot of drama going on from power struggles, self-sacrifice, groups battling against the odds to survive. She further mentioned that if one wants to understand how societies evolve, then they should look more deeply at how wasps behave.
However, the study did get the scientists getting stung several times as Dr Kennedy said that they ended up getting stung a lot but it was worth it, because their results show that worker wasps can become not so useful at home. He also mentioned that wasps on a colony with few larvae but several other workers become almost useless and therefore the best thing to do is to babysit the larvae of other relatives.