Prevention of hyperthermia with silk of the Oriental Hornet, Vespa orientalis: A hypothesis

Marian Plotkin, Natalya Y. Ermakov, Stanislav Volynchik, David J. Bergman, Jacob S. Ishay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Wasps apparently develop normally even under extreme thermal conditions, including deserts. We deemed it worthwhile to set up an experiment wherein wasp brood combs containing a full gamut of brood ranging from eggs up to pupae and a few adults were kept in an incubator whose temperature was gradually raised to 45°C, and the response of the disparate brood to such warming was photographed via Infra Red camera. The finding of this experiment showed that for open brood (i.e., eggs, larvae at various instars, and empty cells) the temperature was close to the ambient temperature, but in the silk coated pupae, the temperature was lower than the ambient by up to 4°C. This lower temperature was retained for at least 90 min of incubation. For comparison we evaluated the relative contribution of the pupae to the phenomenon, by warming also a vacant, (i.e., a broodless and silkless comb) in parallel to a comb from which the pupae had been extricated but the silk weave retained and left behind. We found that the totally empty comb heated up under these conditions to nearly 110°C, whereas the silk-containing vacant cells only heated up to about 40°C. These finding are discussed from two aspects, namely the importance for wasps to maintain a constant temperature throughout the pupating process, and the manner in which the silk weave contributes to such a goal.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69-75
Number of pages7
JournalMicroscopy Research and Technique
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2007


  • Brood distribution
  • Hornet silk
  • Hyperthermia
  • IR camera
  • Metamorphosis
  • Phase transition
  • Social wasps


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