Research Article

Insectes Sociaux

, Volume 57, Issue 4, pp 385-391

First online:

Variation in resource size distribution around colonies changes ant–parasitoid interactions

  • E. B. WilkinsonAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, University of UtahDepartment of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, University of Florida Email author 
  • , D. H. FeenerJr.Affiliated withDepartment of Biology, University of Utah

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Abstract

The distribution of resources within habitats affects species abundance, richness and composition, but the role of resource distribution in species interactions is rarely studied. In ant communities, changes in resource distribution within habitats may influence behavioral interactions because many ant species are specialized to efficiently harvest a subset of available resources. This study investigates whether interactions between the behaviorally dominant host ant Pheidole diversipilosa and its specialist parasitoid (Phoridae: Apocephalus orthocladus) depend on resource size distribution around the colony. Using in situ foraging arenas to manipulate parasitoid abundance and resource size distribution around colonies, we tested whether variation in resource size distribution allows P. diversipilosa to alter its foraging behavior in ways that lessen the impact of parasitoid attack. P. diversipilosa colonies do not lower the impact of parasitoid attack by increasing the number of workers foraging individually on small and widely dispersed resources. However, the presence of multiple large resources allows colonies to temporarily redistribute soldier ants from resources patrolled by parasitoids to other resources not patrolled by parasitoids, and to maintain soldier abundance at levels found in the absence of parasitoids. These results highlight the importance of placing behavioral interactions within the context of variation in resource distribution.

Keywords

Ants Parasitoids Resource size distribution Competition