, Volume 55, Issue 3, pp 246-251
Date: 24 Apr 2008

Decay rates of attractive and repellent pheromones in an ant foraging trail network

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Pharaoh’s ants (Monomorium pharaonis) use at least three types of foraging trail pheromone: a long-lasting attractive pheromone and two short-lived pheromones, one attractive and one repellent. We measured the decay rates of the behavioural response of ant workers at a trail bifurcation to trail substrate marked with either repellent or attractive short-lived pheromones. Our results show that the repellent pheromone effect lasts more than twice as long as the attractive pheromone effect (78 min versus 33 min). Although the effects of these two pheromones decay at approximately the same rate, the initial effect of the repellent pheromone on branch choice is almost twice that of the attractive pheromone (48% versus 25% above control). We hypothesise that the two pheromones have complementary but distinct roles, with the repellent pheromone specifically directing ants at bifurcations, while the attractive pheromone guides ants along the entire trail.