Wasps celebrate dinner with a drum solo

When a wasp finds a good food source, it makes sure everyone else knows about it

Most people have heard the shout of a family member calling them to the table. New research has revealed that wasps have their own way of alerting colony members to nearby food; they drum.

Unlike the mesmerising waggle dance of the honeybee, the European wasp’s signal is simple and direct. It bangs its abdomen rhythmically against parts of the nest to get the attention of the colony in behaviour known as ‘gastral drumming’. For almost 50 years, it was thought that this drumming just meant a wasp was hungry, but scientists have now realised that it serves like a dinner bell calling the workers of the colony to a meal.

The discovery of this recruitment behaviour is important, because it’s the first evidence that wasps are capable of complex communication like bees, ants and other social insects. Communication is vital for these social species, allowing them to pass on information about food, nest invaders and potential danger.