Central American paper wasp

Apoica pallens

The Central American paper wasp is a nocturnal eusocial wasp . It is famous for its swarm based emigration behavior, and is native to the lowlands of Central and northern South America. This species has developed special night vision adaptations to facilitate their night-time swarming and forging behavior and has important medicinal properties for the Pankarare ́ people of Brazil.
Central American paper wasp (Apoica pallens) Canopy Tower, Panama. Dec 31st, 2018 Apoica pallens,Geotagged,Panama,Winter

Appearance

''Apoica pallens'' is pale yellow in color.
Like other species found within the Epiponini, there is morphological caste differentiation between workers and queens.
In ''Apoica pallens,'' queens and workers are usually about the same total size, but queens tend to be smaller than workers anteriorly and significantly larger posteriorly. This differentiation is thought to be the result of differences in ovary development.Nests of ''Apoica'' have no enclosing envelope and are composed of a single comb that hangs under the branch.
The large nests have a distinctive appearance similar to a straw hat or basket.

Distribution

''Apoica pallens'' populations are native to the lowlands of Central and northern South America. Generally, they are found in areas of tropical savanna, semi deciduous tropical dry forest, gallery forest, and marsh land. ''Apoica'' is one of the prominent genera of the New World Tropics, and is rather abundant.

Behavior

Swarming wasps of the genus Epiponini generally place scent-markings on surfaces around the nest during the formation of swarm clusters.
''A. pallens,'' however, has a different mode of communication. ''Apoica'' has the Richards' Gland, an endocrine gland that is mechanistically important in signaling swarming. but apparently does not employ it during swarming. ''Apoica pallens'' appears to coordinate swarming using an airborne pheromone released from the lower side of the abdomen.

Calling behavior is characterized by the gaster being held rigidly away from the thorax, thus exposing the sternal glands. The exposure of these chemical releasing glands has led to the hypothesis that this calling behavior releases airborne pheromones that signal to swarm members, so they know to begin the migration.An interesting aspect of the genus ''Apocia'' is that while it is described as highly social, it has fewer caste differences than other genera of highly social wasp species. This is likely because this genus' morphological caste differentiation was a secondary evolutionary step in sociality, representing a switch between size differentiation between castes to morphological differentiation between castes. The highly structured social nature of this species contributes to the advantages of social behaviors such as their distinctive swarm founding and physical nest defense.

Habitat

''Apoica pallens'' populations are native to the lowlands of Central and northern South America. Generally, they are found in areas of tropical savanna, semi deciduous tropical dry forest, gallery forest, and marsh land. ''Apoica'' is one of the prominent genera of the New World Tropics, and is rather abundant.

Food

''Apoica pallens'' has been found to collect various arthropods including flies, caterpillars, and beetles. It also collects pollen and nectar from banana blossoms. In addition, this species practices brood cannibalism, where the adults will eat some of the brood if their own nutritional needs are not met. Generally, several adults will divide up a single larva. In addition, adults will exchange food via trophallaxis.

Defense

''Apoica pallens'' displays active, rather than chemical defense behavior. During the day, when adult individuals are not participating in swarming behavior, they cover the comb face of the nest several layers thick. The wasps on the outer layer of the comb face outward. This leaves them vigilant to the approach of predatory ants trying to reach the interior of the nest. This is thought to be a more passive defense than an active one, since the presence of the adults in this formation is in and of itself a deterrent to parasites and predators. It has also been hypothesized that the advantages of this protective formation during the daylight hours are what led to the selection of the nocturnal forging and swarming behavior seen in this species.

Uses

Folk medicine is prominent in various areas of Brazil. The incorporation of insects into folk remedies is common, and specific insects serve distinct purposes. Medicinal insects are the focus of certain healing methods targeted to treat ailments, serving as drug resources that come from nature. The nests of ''Apoica pallens'', in particular, is known to be significant in the practices of Pankarare ́Indians and also the rural people of Brazil. Nests of these wasps are burned and the smoke released is inhaled in order to heal stroke. Furthermore, when the presence of evil is suspected in an Indian's life, they must bath in this smoke of the burning nest as treatment. In Matinha dos Pretos, pieces of the nest can also be boiled in water to make a tea that serves as treatment for asthma.

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Taxonomy
KingdomAnimalia
DivisionArthropoda
ClassInsecta
OrderHymenoptera
FamilyVespidae
GenusApoica
SpeciesA. pallens
Photographed in
Panama