Parasitic Wasps Demonstrate An Ability To Form Long Term Memories

Parasitic wasps are pretty simple creatures, but they rely heavily on their ability to sniff out proper hosts. Parasitic wasps are normally valued by farmers and gardeners because they destroy many different types of plant pests. A recent study conducted by researchers from the Netherlands Institute of Ecology discovered that parasitic wasps prioritize their memories of particular scents that indicate the quality of a host.

Not only do parasitic wasps choose their hosts based on the scents that are emitted from hosts, but they are also able to recall these particular scents later on. A parasitic wasp recognizes a high value host by the particular scent that the superior host emits. A parasitic wasp would consider a host that is capable of laying eggs in clusters to be a high value host, while a host that can only lay one single egg at a time would carry a scent that the parasitic wasp would recognize as being of low value.

Researchers were able to determine that the scents associated with high value hosts were remembered by parasitic wasps long enough to enter their long term memory, but the scents associated with low value hosts were stored only in the short term memory. It is understandable that only the scents of high value hosts would remain in the wasp’s long term memory since wasps must collect large amounts of energy to process long term memories. Therefore only scents associated with the most high quality hosts are advantageous enough for wasps to expend energy on remembering these scents.

Do parasitic wasps retain memories in the form of smells and odors?