Seasonal Trends in Honeydew-Foraging Strategies in the Red Wood Ant, Formica yessensis (Hymenoptera: Formicidae)

Izumi Yao

Abstract


The red wood ants Formica yessensis are known to support super colonies comprising thousands of nests, contain approximately 360 million workers, and over one million queens along the Ishikari coast, Hokkaido, northern Japan. Previous studies revealed the abundance of prey insects in Ishikari is very limited; suggesting that honeydew collected from aphids is a critical resource for F. yessensis. Furthermore, several reports suggested F. yessensis performs a generation change between late July and early August at the study site. The present study examined seasonal changes in F. yessensis honeydewforaging workers and specifically addressed the following: information transfer to aphid trees; fidelity to aphid trees; and changes in F. yessensis body size. Observation of marked ants revealed that information transfer to aphid trees occurred by direct guidance from older to younger foragers. Seasonal sampling indicated that honeydew-foraging ant body size decreased with progressive seasons. Large gaster coefficient of variation (CV) values showed two honeydew-foraging ant worker types were present in the super colony. The results revealed older foragers exhibited a large body size, which decreased in number towards autumn. Younger workers exhibited a smaller body size, and initiated honeydew foraging after emergence. Honeydew is a critical resource, therefore information transfer to aphid tree location, and honeydew-foraging were the first priority tasks observed in F. yessensis at the study site. 


Keywords


Honeydew-foraging; Formica yessensis; generation change; fidelity; body size; gaster

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References


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.13102/sociobiology.v59i4.519

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