Scientists are calling it the bone-house wasp because its uses dead ants to protect its nest, perhaps as a chemical signal telling enemies to keep away.
The find is detailed in a study published in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Michael Staab from University of Freiburg, Germany, and his colleagues from China and Germany.
Wasps use a variety of nest protection strategies, including digging holes or occupying pre-existing cavities such as in wood.
Previous studies showed that the nests of cavity-nesting wasps contain several brood cells separated by thin walls of plant debris, resin, or soil.
Once the females have finished constructing the nest, laying eggs, and providing food, they construct an outermost vestibular cell to close the nest.
After construction, female wasps abandon the brood and do not care for their offspring anymore.
Nest protection strategies play a central role in brood survival, and in this study, scientists collected about 800 nests of cavity-nesting wasps with 1,900 brood cells belonging to 18 species in South-East China.
The scientists found a nesting behaviour previously unknown in the entire animal kingdom. In more than 70 nests they found an outer vestibular cell filled with dead ants.
The species constructing these ant-filled vestibular cell was unknown to science and was described in the same study as the bone-house wasp (Deuteragenia ossarium).
Dr. Staab said: “Our discovery demonstrates in an impressive way, what fascinating strategies of offspring-protection have evolved in the animal kingdom.”
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