Effects of colony-level attributes on larval feeding in the fire ant, Solenopsis invicta.
Do colony attributes modulate individual behavior? The effects of colony size and worker :brood ratio on the rate of worker-to-larva trophallaxis in the fire ant, Solenopsis invicta, were investigated. Neither colony size ranging from 100 to 10,000 nor worker :brood ratio ranging from 1:1 to 16:1 affected the density of workers on the brood pile, nor the rate or duration of worker-to-larva trophallaxis. The demands of hungry larvae were met even in groups as small as 100 workers in worker :brood ratios as small as 1. Only when the worker:brood ratio was less than 1, were larvae tended or fed at reduced rates. Under natural conditions, this occurs only in incipient colonies. Otherwise, in post-incipient colonies, the flow of food to larvae was unmodified by colony attributes. The implications of this finding are two-fold: First, it reinforces previous research demonstrating that social feeding in the fire ant emerges from localized interactions rather than mass communication. Second, it highlights the resiliency of this weedy species. Hypothetically, colonies drastically reduced by catastrophic events such as flooding should still be able to produce sexuals.
Cassill, D.L. & Tschinkel, W.R. (1999). Effects of colony-level attributes on larval feeding in the fire ant, Solenopsis invicta. Insectes Sociaux, 46, 261-266.
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