Many wasps have a characteristic way of flying back and forth while approaching the opening to their nest (see for example the intro paragraph in this Wikipedia article on yellow jackets).

Is there a term for this characteristic flight behaviour? In entomology, in folklore? I have searched, but found nothing.

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    Huh, interesting. If you don't get an answer here after a while, come on over to Biology.SE. We have a few entomologists who hang out there and they should know. – terdon Sep 14 '13 at 1:20
  • Great suggestion @terdon. I did not know there is a Biology.SE. – JAM Sep 14 '13 at 2:20
  • Yeah, we're still in beta. Just make sure to remove any references to folklore and stick to asking for an 'official scientific' term :). – terdon Sep 14 '13 at 2:22
  • terdon just wants you to ask over there so he can close the same question down on two sites – RyeɃreḁd Sep 14 '13 at 3:18
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    The opening paragraph in the Wiki states the wasps can be identified by a characteristic "rapid, side to side flight pattern prior to landing." Google returns about 9,300,000 results for zig-zag flight + wasp. – Autoresponder Sep 14 '13 at 19:30

They are commonly referred as " Orientation flights "
You can read more about this here

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