A researcher who dabbed tiny stripes on the faces and abdomens of paper wasps says that she's found the first evidence that the insects can recognize individuals by their markings.
A paper wasp given a fancy paint job and returned to her colony met who-the-heck-are-you aggression, says Elizabeth Tibbetts of Cornell University. Wasps naturally show lots of variety in yellow, black, and brown patterns, which could provide visual cues to their identity, she reports in an upcoming issue of Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B.
A longtime investigator of kin recognition in wasps, George Gamboa of Oakland University in Rochester, Mich., welcomes insect painting as a novel approach to an old question. Plenty of experiments have shown that wasps and other social