D’Adamo & Lozada* provided food to a colony of yellow jackets and studied the response when the food was relocated nearby. The wasps continued to search the area even though odor cues were no longer present in the area. As time without finding food increases, the wasps will quit that location and initiate a search for the new food source using odors and other cues. Wasps that experienced more food reward trips at the initial location took longer to quit that location and were less likely to quit. D’Adamo & Lozada also placed colored visual markers near a food source and studied yellow jacket response. When food was moved to a new location, the wasps were more likely to quit the original food location and search for a new food source if the visual markers were altered.
Food for yellow jackets is patchy in space and time. The search behavior of the yellow jackets increases foraging efficiency by reducing the time spent foraging for food. It also suggests that wasps that have found a suitable food in plentiful supply are less likely to locate another food source even if it is better quality.
*Paola D’Adamo & Mariana Lozada. 2014. How Context Modification can Favor the Release of Past Experience in Vespula germanica Wasps, Enabling the Detection of a Novel Food Site. J Insect Behavior. 27:395-402.