Tropical wasps memorize friendly faces

wasp faces

The tropical wasp species Liostenogaster flavolineata uses a combination of facial and odor recognition to protect their nests from foreigner wasps.


Tropical wasps have a knack for faces that helps them protect their nests from intruders, scientists report February 4 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Using varying sight and smell stimuli, scientists introduced alien wasps to 50 Liostenogaster flavolineata colonies in Malaysia. Female guard wasps failed to catch some intruders based on smell alone, and going simply on sight, they mistakenly attacked nestmates. Taking advantage of both senses, the wasps strike a compromise: They recognize scents and unique facial markings of friends and foes, but sight trumps smell.

L. flavolineata aren’t the only wasps that can spot a mug. Read SN’s feature on facial recognition in animals.

Helen Thompson is the multimedia editor. She has undergraduate degrees in biology and English from Trinity University and a master’s degree in science writing from Johns Hopkins University.

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