Multiple mechanisms underlie displacement of solitary Hawaiian Hymenoptera by an invasive social wasp

Ecology. 2010 Nov;91(11):3294-302. doi: 10.1890/09-1187.1.


Variation in invasion success may result from the divergent evolutionary histories of introduced species compared to those of native taxa. The vulnerability of native biotas to ecological disruption may be especially great on oceanic islands invaded by continental species with unique ecological traits. In part because Hawaii lacks native eusocial insects, social invaders may threaten endemic taxa that are ecologically similar but solitary. Using a combination of field manipulations, molecular analyses, physiological data, and behavioral assays, we identify the mechanisms underlying the displacement of two genera of native solitary Hymenoptera in Hawaii by a social continental invader, the western yellowjacket (Vespula pensylvanica). Experimental removal of V. pensylvanica colonies resulted in increased densities of native Hymenoptera. Endemic Hylaeus bees directly suffer through predation by yellowjackets, and perhaps as a consequence, avoid floral resources occupied by V. pensylvanica. Native Nesodynerus wasps also avoid V. pensylvanica but are negatively affected by yellowjackets not through predation, but through exploitative competition for caterpillar prey. Displacement of native solitary Hymenoptera may be heightened by the ability of V. pensylvanica to prey upon and scavenge honey bees and to rob their honey stores, resources unavailable to endemic bees and wasps because of their specialized niches. Our study provides a unique example of an ecologically generalized social invader that restructures native assemblages of solitary Hymenoptera by interacting with endemic taxa on multiple trophic levels.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ecosystem*
  • Flowers
  • Hawaii
  • Hymenoptera / physiology*
  • Introduced Species*
  • Population Dynamics