Role Differentiation in Copulating Cicada Killer Wasps

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Science  15 Sep 1967:
Vol. 157, Issue 3794, pp. 1334-1335
DOI: 10.1126/science.157.3794.1334


Copulating male and female cicada killer wasps have distinct behavioral roles independent of reproduction. Males terminate copulation, and females initiate the copulatory flight in which the pair in copulation escape potential danger. Separation and escape behavior are mutually exclusive. Separation occurs because the female clings to the substrate and fails to join the male in his frequent attempts at flight; thus he eventually pulls free. Escape occurs when the female begins flight, which the male readily joins. Differences in thresholds for flight probably largely determine both roles. There appears to be an evolutionary balance in escape and separation behavior determined by the behavior of the female, and illustrative of behavioral homeostasis. The female remains still in the presence of mild stimuli, such as attempted male flights, and thereby aids in separation; she initiates escape in the presence of strong stimuli such as potential enemies.