Body Size of Wood Ant Workers Affects their Work Division


  • Adam Véle Forestry and Game Management Research Institute. Strnady 136, 252 02 Jíloviště, Czech Republic
  • Roman Modlinger Czech University of Life Sciences



bait, food, Formica, labor, nest


The division of functions among ant workers and their mutual cooperation is one of the reasons for ants’ success. The activities that workers perform in the nest can be divided by age or morphology. We studied the body size of workers of the wood ant Formica polyctena as a function of their activity. Our results show that workers exploiting protein baits were larger than workers attracted to carbohydrate baits. The biggest of all were workers located at the upper parts of the nest, which shows the importance of nest defense and maintenance. It also points that the distribution of functions does not have to be given only by workers age. Work division based on several mechanisms may be advantageous for colony functioning.


Download data is not yet available.


Adlung, K.G., A Critical Evaluation of the European Research on Use of Red Wood Ants (Formica rufa Group) for the Protection of Forests against Harmful Insects. Zeitschrift für Angewandte Entomologie, 57: 167-189.

Batchelor, T.P., Santini, G. & Briffa, M. (2012). Size distribution and battles in wood ants: group resource-holding potential is the sum of the individual parts. Animal Behaviour, 83: 111-117. doi: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2011.10.014

Bernadou, A., Romermann, C., Gratiashvili, N. & Heinze, J. (2016). Body size but not colony size increases with altitude in the holarctic ant, Leptothorax acervorum. Ecological Entomology, 41: 733-736. doi: 10.1111/een.12338

Bernstein, S. & Bernstein, R.A. (1969). Relationships between foraging efficiency and the size of the head and component brain and sensory structures in the red wood ant. Brain Research, 16: 85-104. doi: 10.1016/0006-8993(69)90087-0

Bishop, T.R., Robertson, M.P., Gibb, H., van Rensburg, B.J., Braschler, B., Chown, S.L., Foord, S.H., Munyai T.C., Okey, I., Tshivhandekano, P.G., Werenkraut, V. & Parr C.L. (2016). Ant assemblages have darker and larger members in cold environments. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 25: 1489-1499. doi: 10.1111/geb.12516

Bugrova, N.M. (2010). The impact of forest area fragmentation on ant population. Entomological Review, 90: 541-547. doi: 10.1134/S0013873810050015

Crawley, M.J. (2013). The R book, Second edition. Chichester West Sussex, UK: Wiley, 501 p.

Czechowski, W., Radchenko, A. & Czechowska, W. (2002). The ants of Poland: Hymenoptera, Formicidae, 1st ed. Warszaw: Museum and Institute of Zoology, Polish Academy of Sciences, 200 p

Del-Claro, K. & Oliveira, P.S. (1993). Ant-Homoptera Interaction: Do Alternative Sugar Sources Distract Tending Ants? Oikos, 68: 202-206. doi: 10.2307/3544831

Fénéron, R., Jaisson, P. & Durand, J.L. (1996). Relation Between Behaviour and Physiological Maturation in a Ponerine Ant. Behaviour, 133: 791-806. doi: 10.1163/ 156853996X00477

Grześ, I.M., Okrutniak, M. & Grzegorzek, J. (2016). The size-dependent division of labour in monomorphic ant Lasius niger. European Journal of Soil Biology, 77: 1-3. doi: 10.1016/j.ejsobi.2016.08.006

Grześ, I.M., Okrutniak, M. & Woch, M.W. (2015). Monomorphic ants undergo within-colony morphological changes along the metal-pollution gradient. Environmental Science and Pollution Research, 22: 6126-6134. doi: 10.1007/s11356-014-3808-5

Hölldobler, B. & Wilson, E.O. (1990). The Ants. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 732 p

Horstmann, K. (1972). Untersuchungen zur GroBenverteilung bei den AuBendienstarbeiterinnen der Waldameise Formica polyctena Foerster (Hymenoptera, Formicidae). Waldhygiene, 9: 193-20.

Horstmann, K. (1973). Untersuchungen zur Arbeitsteilung unter den Außendienst-arbeiterinnen der Waldameise Formica polyctena Foerster. Zeitschrift fur Tierpsychologie, 32, 532-543.

IUCN (1996). Formica polyctena. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. doi: 10.2305/IUCN.UK.1996.RLTS.T8644A 12924699. (accessed date: 30 October, 2019).

Johansson, T. & Gibb, H. (2012). Forestry Alters Foraging Efficiency and Crop Contents of Aphid-Tending Red Wood Ants, Formica aquilonia. PLoS ONE, 7:e32817. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0032817

Kaspari, M. (2005). Global energy gradients and size in colonial organisms: Worker mass and worker number in ant colonies. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 102: 5079-5083. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0407827102

Kay, A. & Rissing, S.W. (2005). Division of foraging labor in ants can mediate demands for food and safety. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 58: 165-174. doi: 10.1007/s00265-005-0914-x

Kramer, B.H., Schaible, R. & Scheuerlein, A. (2016). Worker lifespan is an adaptive trait during colony establishment in the long-lived ant Lasius niger. Experimental Gerontology, 85: 18-23. doi:10.1016/j.exger.2016.09.008

Otto, D. (1958). Über die Arbeitsteilung im Staate von Formica rufa rufo-pratensis minor Gössw. und ihre verhaltens physiologischen Grundlagen. Ein Beitrag zur Biologie der Roten Waldameise. Wissenschaftliche Abhandlungen, 30: 1-166.

Pekár, S. & Brabec, M. (2012) Moderní analýza biologických dat. Brno: Masarykova univerzita, 162p

Purcell, J., Pirogan, D., Avril, A., Bouyarden, F. & Chapuisat M. (2016). Environmental influence on the phenotype of ant workers revealed by common garden experiment. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 70: 357-367. doi: 10.1007/s00265-015-2055-1

R Core Team (2016) A Language and Environment for Statistical Computing., 1st ed. R Foundation for Statistical Computing (Vienna, Austria).

Rissing, S.W. (1982) Foraging Velocity of Seed-Harvester Ants, Veromessor pergandei (Hym.: Formicidae). Environmental Entomology, 11: 905-907. doi: 10.1093/ee/11.4.905

Rosengren, R. & Sundström, L. (1987). The foraging system of a red wood ant colony (Formica s. str.) - collecting and defending food through an extended phenotype. Experientia, Supplementum: Behavior of Social Insects, 54: 117-137.

Rosengren, R. (1977). Foraging strategy of wood ants (Formica rufa group). Acta Zoologica Fennica, 150: 3-30.

Savolainen, R. & Vepsäläinen, K. (1989). Niche Differentiation of Ant Species within Territories of the Wood Ant Formica polyctena. Oikos 56:3-16. doi: 10.2307/3566082

Sundström, L. (1993). Foraging responses of Formica truncorum (Hymenoptera; Formicidae); exploiting stable vs spatially and temporally variable resources. Insectes Sociaux, 40: 147-161. doi: 10.1007/BF01240703

Wills, B.D., Powell, S., Rivera, M.D. & Suarez, A.V. (2018). Correlates and Consequences of Worker Polymorphism in Ants. Annual Review of Entomology, 63: 575-598. doi: 10.1146/annurev-ento-020117-043357

Wilson, E.O. (1971). The Insect Societies, 1st ed. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 548 p

Wright, P.J., Bonser, R. & Chukwu, U.O. (2000). The size-distance relationship in the wood ant Formica rufa. Ecological Entomology, 25: 226-233. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2311.2000.00253.x

Yao, I. (2012). Seasonal trends in honeydew-foraging strategies in the red wood ant Formica yessensis (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Sociobiology, 59: 1351-1363. doi: 10.13102/sociobiology.v59i4.519.




How to Cite

Véle, A., & Modlinger, R. (2019). Body Size of Wood Ant Workers Affects their Work Division. Sociobiology, 66(4), 614–618.



Short Note