European Polistine wasps inhabit mainly temperate and warm climate regions. However, the paper wasp Polistes biglumis represents an exception; it resides in mountainous areas, e.g., in the Alps and in the Apennines. In these habitats, the wasps are exposed to a broad temperature range during their lifetime. We investigated whether they developed adaptations in their metabolism to their special climate conditions by measuring their CO2 production. The standard or resting metabolic rate and the metabolism of active wasps was measured in the temperature range which they are exposed to in their habitat in summer. The standard metabolic rate increased in a typical exponential progression with ambient temperature, like in other wasps. The active metabolism also increased with temperature, but not in a simple exponential course. Some exceptionally high values were presumed to originate from endothermy. The simultaneous measurement of body temperature and metabolic rate revealed a strong correlation between these two parameters. The comparison of the standard metabolic rate of Polistes biglumis with that of Polistes dominula revealed a significantly lower metabolism of the alpine wasps. This energy saving metabolic strategy could be an adaptation to the harsh climate conditions, which restricts foraging flights and energy recruitment.
Keywords: Polistes biglumis; activity; climate; respiratory metabolism; standard metabolic rate.