New research by biologists recently found that wasps offer crucial support to their extended families by babysitting at neighboring nests.

New research by a group of biologists from the universities of Bristol, Exeter and UCL recently found that wasps offer crucial support to their extended families by babysitting at neighboring nests.

The findings published in Nature Ecology and Evolution, EurekAlert reported, propose that animals need to frequently search for to help more distant relatives “if their closest kin are less in need.”

According to lead author Dr. Patrick Kennedy, and research fellow Marie Curie from the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Bristol, these wasps can act as if they are “rich family members lending a hand to their second cousins.”

If there is not much one can do to help an immediate family, he can turn his attention to the extended family.

Furthermore, by closely watching 20,000 baby wasps and their carers on colonies around Panama Canal, the group of researchers could identify the usefulness of workers on colonies of different sizes.

Worker Wasps Becoming Less Helpful

The team presented that workers turn out to be less helpful as the number of members of the colony rises because of a surplus of support.

Behavioral Ecology professor Andy Radford, also from Bristol and the study’s co-author explained that by assisting more distant relatives that are more in need, those living nearby with lesser carer, workers can transfer more copies of their genes, in general.

The co-author said they believe that the same principles of decreasing returns might explain apparently paradoxical acts of altruism in a lot of other social animals.

Puzzling Behavior of Wasps

Dr. Kennedy also said that the fact that “these paper wasps in Central and South America help at colonies” is definitely strange when one considers” that most wasps, bees and ants are excessively hostile to others.

To solve such a puzzling behavior, specifically of wasps, the researchers combined mathematical modeling with their detailed field observation.

Dr. Kennedy explained too, “we ended being stung a lot.” However, he added, it was worth it as their results showed that worker wasps could become “redundant at home.”

A wasp on one colony with few larvae but with many of other workers turn out to be nearly useless: the best thing to do is for the wasp to babysit its other relatives’ larvae.

Since Darwin, according to the biologists, they have been attempting to understand how “altruism” is evolving in animals.

At an initial glance, acts of selflessness to support other individuals do not appear to enable individuals to transfer their genes.

Animal Altruism

Professor Radford explained, in the early 1960s, WD Hamilton, the legendary biologist, figured out the basic rule of animal altruism.

He elaborated, “Lavish help on our family” as they are sharing many of the genes. Copies in the genes will succeed in the population.

Nevertheless, the tropical paper wasps the team studied baffled Hamilton back in the early 1960s. Specifically in Brazil, he was astonished to notice that Polistes wasps were living their close kin on their home nests and flying off to help their neighbors who are less closely related.

Previous research showed that over half the workers in a Panamanian populace were helping on numerous nests.

Typically, wasps viciously attack outsiders, so this babysitting proposed something extraordinary was going on.

Behavioral Ecology Professor Seirian Summer from the University College London explained that wasps provide amazing windows into the evolution of selflessness.

In addition, Summer elaborated, there is so much going on in a nest of wasps, including power struggles, colonies battling against the odds for survival.

Lastly, the professor explained, “if we want to understand how societies” are evolving, wasps should be looked at more deeply.

Originally published at Science Times