, Volume 31, Issue 6, pp 417-427

How colony growth affects forager intrusion between neighboring harvester ant colonies

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Colonies of the harvester ant, Pogonomyrmex barbatus, adjust the direction and length of foraging trails in response to the foraging behavior of their conspecific neighbors. In the absence of any interaction with its neighbor, a mature colony expands its foraging range at a rate of 0.85 ± 0.15 m per day. Exclusion experiments show that if a colony is prevented from using its foraging trails, the neighbors of that colony will enter its foraging range within 10 days. Exclusion experiments were performed with three age classes of colonies: young (1 year old), intermediate (3–4 years old), and old (5 years old or more). Colonies 3–4 years old are most likely to expand foraging ranges, and to retain newly-gained areas. To examine the relation of colony age (in years) and colony size (in numbers of workers), colonies of known age were excavated. Colonies increase greatly in size in years 3 and 4. Foraging area may be of greater current or prospective value for younger, smaller, quickly growing colonies than for older, larger ones of stable size.

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