We investigated the occurrence, developmental pattern, and life history correlations of storage proteins in Monobia quadridens (Eumeninae), Polistes metricus and P. dorsalis (Polistinae), and Dolichovespula maculata and Vespula maculifrons (Vespinae). Specimens were collected at phases of their annual life cycles that could reveal any involvement of storage proteins in caste differentiation. Storage proteins appear late in larval development and then are typically fully utilized during pupation. Several storage proteins were characterized from Polistes and Dolichovespula larvae: high glutamic acid protein, very high density lipoprotein, and at least two hexamerins. Storage proteins were also found in some adults: a large, newly emerged M. quadridens and in large, newly emerged P. metricus and P. dorsalis in late July, which is the time of the colony cycle when Polistes gynes are typically produced. Storage proteins were not found in a small, newly emerged M. quadridens, nor in any early July adult Polistes, nor in any adult gyne, worker, or male yellowjacket. These data suggest that carry-through of storage protein from larval development into adulthood in M. quadridens may reflect a size-correlated reaction norm of response to quantitative differences in larval provisioning. The same reaction norm is believed to occur in Polistes, where carry-through of storage protein into adulthood becomes elaborated in the context of colony life to yield a pattern that is concordant with caste differences among female offspring. We believe that carry-through of storage proteins into adults in Polistes can be a significant component of, or even determinant of, ontogenetic differentiation between gynes and workers. In Vespinae, the well-known difference in nest cell size for larvae destined to be workers versus larvae destined to be gynes may correlate with a physiological mechanism of ontogenetic caste differentiation that does not incorporate storage proteins.
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