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Avian kleptoparasitism of the digger wasp Sphex pensylvanicus

  • Justin Benttinen (a1) and Evan Preisser (a1)

Kleptoparasitism (one organism stealing prey from another) is especially common in birds. Avian kleptoparasites should be especially likely to target insects such as digger wasps (Hymenoptera: Sphecidae) that occur in large aggregations and repeatedly deliver large prey to the same nesting site. We document kleptoparasitism of digger wasps (Sphex pensylvanicus L.) by sparrows (Passer domesticus (L.)) and catbirds (Dumetella carolinensis (L.)). During summer 2008, we observed 697 wasp provisioning attempts (return of a prey-laden wasp to a marked nesting site) in a mown field. One-third (244/697) of attempts were intercepted by birds, primarily sparrows, which increased their hourly total number and hourly number of successful attacks per capita. Wasps maintained a consistent rate of successful provisioning attempts but may not have been able to do so indefinitely. Energetic costs related to kleptoparasitism may exert strong selection pressures on affected digger wasps.


Le cleptoparasitisme (dans lequel un organisme vole la proie d’un autre) est très répandu chez les oiseaux. Les oiseaux cleptoparasites sont particulièrement susceptibles de cibler les insectes tels que les guêpes fouisseuses (Hymenoptera: Sphecidae) qui forment d’importants rassemblements et livrent à répétition de grandes proies aux mêmes sites de nidification. Nous étudions le cleptoparasitisme des guêpes fouisseuses (Sphex pensylvanicus L.) par les moineaux domestiques (Passer domesticus (L.)) et les moqueurs chats (Dumetella carolinensis (L.)). Nous avons observé, durant l’été 2008, 697 tentatives d’approvisionnement (retour d’une guêpe porteuse de proies à un site de nidification marqué) dans un champ fauché. Un tiers (244/697) des tentatives ont été interceptées par les oiseaux, surtout par des moineaux, qui ont augmenté leur nombre total d’attaques par individu et d’attaques réussies par heure. Les guêpes ont maintenu un nombre constant de tentatives d’approvisionnement réussies, mais n’auraient peut-être pas pu conserver le rythme indéfiniment. Les coûts énergétiques reliés au cleptoparasitisme peuvent exercer de fortes pressions de sélection sur les guêpes fouisseuses.

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The Canadian Entomologist
  • ISSN: 0008-347X
  • EISSN: 1918-3240
  • URL: /core/journals/canadian-entomologist
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