Kleptoparasitism as an alternative foraging tactic for nest provisioning in a parental shield bug

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Kleptoparasitism reduces the cost of acquiring resources and is typically an alternative tactic to self-foraging. Females of the provisioning shield bug, Parastrachia japonensis (Heteroptera: Parastrachiidae), kleptoparasitize conspecific nests, stealing drupes to provision their own nests. We tested 2 mechanisms that could lead to the behavior of stealing from nests: 1) an incidental encounter with another female’s nest when attracted by a drupe alone and 2) a specific attraction to another female’s nest, and discrimination between host/self nest, as an alternative foraging tactic to acquire high-quality drupes. These 2 pathways to kleptoparasitism could have very different consequences for thief and victim. In the laboratory, we tested whether females are attracted to other nests, and whether they target them to steal when foraging. Provisioning females entered other nests significantly more frequently than a clean control nest even when they did not contain drupes. Moreover, they entered another nest that contained a drupe significantly more frequently than a control nest with a drupe. Finally, when several drupes were present, females only stole a fresh drupe. These findings indicate that provisioning P. japonensis females are actively attracted to other females’ nests and support the alternative foraging tactic hypothesis. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report of an insect outside the Hymenoptera being actively attracted to the nest of a conspecific when there was no food reward. We discuss how the behaviors and sensory mechanisms involved in provisioning behavior can be co-opted for stealing, as an alternative tactic to self-foraging.

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