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Old 07-30-2009, 08:54 PM   #1
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Default New Life Histories Emerge For Invasive Wasps, Magnify Ecological Harm

New Life Histories Emerge For Invasive Wasps, Magnify Ecological Harm

ScienceDaily (July 20, 2009) — A switch from annual to multiyear colonies and a willingness to feed just about any prey to their young have allowed invasive yellowjacket wasps to disrupt native populations of insects and spiders on two Hawaiian islands, a new study has found.

New Life Histories Emerge For Invasive Wasps, Magnify Ecological Harm
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By analyzing the DNA from bits of prey snatched from foragers returning to nests, ecologists from the University of California, San Diego, found that introduced yellowjacket wasps kill or scavenge prey from 14 different taxonomic orders of animals, even reptiles and birds.

"They're consuming anything from geckos to shearwater to tree lice to more juicy items that you would expect them to eat, like caterpillars. They're just like little vacuum cleaners," said Erin Wilson, who recently completed her doctorate at UC San Diego and is the lead author of the study reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week.

Wilson and her colleagues found that nearby populations of caterpillars and spiders rebounded when rangers removed wasp nests.
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Old 07-30-2009, 09:59 PM   #2
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"Rather than having a nest the size of a football, you'll have a nest the size of a '57 Buick,"
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Old 08-01-2009, 05:53 PM   #3
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Default Alien-Wasp Swarms Devouring Birds, Bugs in Hawaii

Alien-Wasp Swarms Devouring Birds, Bugs in Hawaii
Christine Dell'Amore
National Geographic News
July 23, 2009

Alien-Wasp Swarms Devouring Birds, Bugs in Hawaii
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Attacking from nests as big as pickup-truck beds, invasive western yellowjacket wasps in Hawaii are munching their way through an "astonishing diversity" of creatures, from caterpillars to pheasants, a new study says.

Adult yellowjackets consume only nectar. But they kill or scavenge prey to deliver needed protein to their growing broods.

"They basically just carry it in their mandibles—you see them flying with their balls of meat," said lead study author Erin Wilson, who just finished her Ph.D. at the University of California, San Diego.

In their native habitat in the western U.S., the wasps die off in winter. But in Hawaii the wasps survive the winter, possibly due to mild year-round temperatures or subtle genetic changes.

A longer life-span gives the insects more time to build up their nests. So what would normally be a basketball-size nest can become, at the extreme, several feet long—big enough to fill the back of a pickup truck, Wilson said.

The extra room allows a colony of 50,000 workers to explode to 500,000 or more. Larger colonies mean that the insects deplete more prey than in areas where the wasps die off in winter.
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