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The insects bang their bellies to alert others of food

Posted by on 05.22.2018

The belly-banging action is the wasp equivalent of ringing a dinner bell

Wasps can also signal how high quality the food is by using different beats

For five decades, researchers thought the drumming was a signal of hunger

Wasps always seem to appear as soon as you've laid out a picnic.

Now, scientists have discovered why the insects have such an uncanny knack for appearing during outdoor mealtimes.

They believe the insects bang their tummies to alert other wasps when there is food nearby.

Wasps even use different types of drumming to tell their peers about the quality of food on offer.

Nothing ruins a picnic quite like a hoard of wasps circling around the sandwiches. Now, scientists have found the animals communication with each other so that once one of the animals has spotted food it signals the find to all wasps in the vicinity

The belly-banging action is the wasp equivalent of ringing a dinner bell, according to biologists.

Dr Taylor, an assistant professor at LaGuardia Community College in New York, said: 'They often show up at picnics, ballgames - anywhere they can get hold of some food.

'The behaviour I studied is called gastral drumming. When they produce this behaviour they drum their gaster - which is essentially their abdomen.

'For nearly five decades, researchers thought it was a signal of hunger. What my team found was that they are somehow informing each other that there's good food nearby.

The assistant biology professor studied a species of wasp called the German yellowjacket because it is commonly associated with ruining outdoor meals.

He found the workers produced various 'rhythmic' sounds by tapping their gasters against different parts of the nest.

He believed this could be a sign of advanced social communication in the insect world.

Dr Taylor added: 'This is incredibly exciting. In the social insect world, we call this behaviour 'recruitment'.

'For many years, many people believed wasps do not produce such a behaviour. Our research showed they do.'

Despite their fierce reputation, Dr Taylor explains that these wasps are crucial to fully functioning ecosystems.

'Anyone who has stepped on one won't soon forget it. I suspect that most people who say they were stung by a bee were actually stung by one of these wasps.

'But I don't want to make them sound like ruthless monsters.

'When they sting, it's most often to defend themselves or the other members of the colony.'

'German yellow jacket wasps are vital components of ecosystems and are often overlooked as pollinators for plants,' he added.

'Many wasp researchers have been trying to get others to reassess their importance in this regard.

'There's also a hashtag used on social media (#wasplove), to try to get people to understand their importance.'

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The insects bang their bellies to alert others of food