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Light Modulates Electric Phenomena in Hornet Cuticle¶

American Society for Photobiology
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Abstract In the cuticle of live social hornets, such as Vespa orientalis (Hymenoptera, Vespinae), endogenous electric effects are encountered, i.e. voltages of 100–200 mV under illumination and currents amounting to several microamperes on its subjection to darkness—clearly a process of charging and discharging. Of the various wavelengths of sunlight, UV was found to be the most contributory to the active cuticular voltage generation. Throughout the warm season of the year—the active period in colonies of social hornets and wasps—colony members exit from the dark nest during the daytime and fly to the field under the hot sun for various foraging purposes, ultimately returning to the nest. Thus, each hornet, be it queen, worker or drone, probably undergoes daily cyclical process of electric charge and discharge in the exterior part of their integument, cuticle, which lasts up to 30–40 min. Such photoelectric phenomenon was detected in both live, ether-anaesthetized hornets and dead hornets, albeit in the latter the electric values recorded were lower. The present study addresses the possible impact of the phenomenon on vespan daily life and also compares it with a parallel occurrence in electric fish.

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