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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Black + yellow = WASP

The advertisement by wasps that they are indeed wasps is known as aposematic coloring. Although unsure of which species of wasp this is, I know enough, having been taught by previous wasps (and bees!), to use caution while approaching. Those other wasps were yellow and black and a few of them stung me. The contrasting colors advertise danger to would be predators or photographers. Clever how insects came up with the same color scheme as those piso mojado signs in Del Taco that warn us of squished salsa packs on the floor. The yellow and black stripes on a wasp (or a bee) warn birds not to eat. The main beneficiary of course is the wasp who does not die. But the bird also benefits by not getting stung. The general yellow/black theme among stinging hymenopterans is further defined as Muellerian mimicry, in which various species display the same aposematic warnings, thereby reinforcing the effectiveness of each other's protective strategy vis a vis common predators.

There are examples of human use of aposematic warnings but they are intraspecific. Who is the beneficiary of such a warning? If I see a car with a W04 sticker, I have been warned that any attempt at communication with the driver or occupants will be futile, and steer clear as it were. But they too have successfully avoided
contact with me as a result of their warning, and have been saved the nuisance of being annoyed by whatever message is emblazoned on my t-shirt that particular day. In the bigger picture of human survival, though, is this result a win-win, or a lose-lose?

1 comment:

cheesemeister said...

I got stung in the armpit by a wasp one time. It hurt like blazes! I don't like them flying around me.