Seasonal Changes in Sugar and Amino Acid Preference in Red Wood Ants of The Formica rufa Group

Natalia E.L. Madsen, Joachim Offenberg


Red wood ants of the Formica rufa group are important ecosystem engineers throughout the Northern Hemisphere with potential to be commercially produced and used as predatory agents in biological control programs. However, in order to do that, their mutualistic relationship with aphids needs to be disrupted. This may be achieved by developing artificial sugar-based solutions with a composition that makes them more attractive than aphid honeydew. The present field study investigated Formica rufa’s preference for several sugar and amino acid sources, as well as potential seasonal changes in these preferences. Red wood ants consistently preferred sucrose to monosaccharides and were most attracted to solutions containing an amino acid source, albeit seasonal differences were observed with regard to which amino acid sources were most preferred. Recruitment to offered sugar solutions was highest during July, when colony requirements were high, and during October, when alternative food sources were scarce. Since ant preference for sugar solution constituents seems to be species-specific and show seasonal dynamics, artificial food aimed at disrupting ant-aphid mutualisms should be tailored to individual species and seasons.


ant nutrition, food selection, Formicidae, biocontrol, carbohydrates, protein

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