We don’t tend to think of wasps as being of superior intelligence. After all, they have a brain that’s the size of a grain of rice or thereabouts, so just how capable can they actually be?
Well, it seems that size may not be as important as first thought when it comes to brain capacity and intelligence, with a 20-year study from the University of Michigan now showing that, despite their tiny little brains, paper wasps actually have an impressive capacity for learning, remembering and making social distinctions about other wasps.
Conducted by evolutionary biologist Elizabeth Tibbetts, the study found that paper wasps are actually able to recognise individual wasps based on variations in facial markings, as well as behaving more aggressively towards wasps that bear unfamiliar markings.
It was also found that these insects also have surprisingly long memories and base actions on their recollection of previous social interactions with other wasps.
And not only that but the first evidence that wasps can form abstract concepts is also now being reported, with paper wasps able to transfer what they learned through visual training into another sensory modality… their sense of smell.
The researchers were able to train paper wasps to distinguish between pairs of olfactory or visual stimuli, whether that was two photos of wasp faces, two coloured bits of paper or two chemical odours.
Ms Tibbetts commented on the findings, saying: “Abstract concepts are thought to be associated with high levels of cognitive sophistication, so there has been much interest in which species can form and use them. This is the first time anyone has shown that wasps can form abstract concepts.”
Originally, it was thought that only primates were capable of same/different concept learning, but further research has shown that this is the case for many animals, including dolphins, parrots, pigeons, crows, ducklings and honeybees… and now paper wasps!
Of course, no matter how clever these insects may well be, they can still represent something of a nuisance when there’s a swarm at home or your place of business. If you’re struggling with pest control at the moment, get in touch with us today to book a wasp exterminator job.