Yellowjackets (Vespula pensylvanica) thermoregulate in response to changes in protein concentration

Naturwissenschaften. 2008 Sep;95(9):787-92. doi: 10.1007/s00114-008-0384-x. Epub 2008 Apr 22.


Social insects can modulate body temperature to increase foraging efficiency; however, little is known about how the relative value of protein resources affects forager body temperature. Such regulation may be important given that colony growth is often limited by protein availability. In this paper, we present what are, to our knowledge, the first data for social insects showing that thoracic temperatures (T (th)) of foragers increase with the protein content of food resources. In an introduced population of western yellowjacket (Vespula pensylvanica), we measured T (th) of foragers collecting high-quality protein (100% canned chicken) and low-quality protein (50% canned chicken, 50% indigestible alpha-cellulose by volume) at different ambient air temperatures (T (a)). Wasps foraging on 100% chicken consistently exhibited higher T (th) compared to wasps foraging on 50% chicken. After correcting for T (a), the mean T (th) for wasps collecting 100% chicken were 1.98 degrees C higher than those of individuals collecting 50% chicken. We suggest that this mechanism may increase foraging efficiency in this and other social wasp species.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animal Feed*
  • Animals
  • Bees / physiology
  • Body Temperature
  • Body Temperature Regulation*
  • Chickens
  • Dietary Proteins
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Insect Proteins / physiology*
  • Meat
  • Social Behavior
  • Wasps / physiology*


  • Dietary Proteins
  • Insect Proteins