Scanning Electron Microscopy


In social wasps granular aggregates occur mainly in the head region and the body integument. In the former location they are present both on the outer and inner side of the frons. On the outer side of the frons, in a groove traversing its center, there is a deep pit surrounded by a membrane which forms a cyst-like sac. In the pit of the hornet Vespa orientalis (Linne, 1771), there are aggregates comprising silicon (Sl), potassium (K), calcium (Ca) and iron (Fe), which are arranged in morula-like fashion. A granular material is secreted at the base of sensory hairs (sensilla), distributed on both sides of the groove, as well as along their shafts. Aggregates of sillcon and calcium are also present on the inner side of the frons.

The integumental aggregates are comprised of yellow pigment granules. In the abdominal region these granules, which are concentrated in yellow stripes, assume a quasi-cylindrical shape, measuring 0.6-0.8 μmin length and 0.3-0.4 μmin diameter. Their structure is affected by caste, age, exposure to sunlight, and drugs introduced through feeding. Feeding on colchicine induces degeneration of the granules, whereas feeding on xanthines renders them refractory to the destructive action of colchicine. Their main metallic element is K.

We postulate that 1) the granules on both sides of the frons are part of a tympanic and static organ; 2) the yellow granules (YG) dispersed all over the external surface of the body possess properties of organic semiconductors; 3) 1 and 2 are piezoelectric, and are involved both in gravity orientation and transposition from photo to geotaxis.

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