, Volume 63, Issue 1, pp 43-51,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 30 Jul 2008

Why do not all workers work? Colony size and workload during emigrations in the ant Temnothorax albipennis


Here, we study distribution of workload and its relationship to colony size among worker ants of Temnothorax albipennis, in the context of colony emigrations. We find that one major aspect of workload, number of items transported by each worker, was more evenly distributed in larger colonies. By contrast, in small colonies, a small number of individuals perform most of the work in this task (in one colony, a single ant transported 57% of all items moved in the emigration). Transporters in small colonies carried more items to the new nest per individual and achieved a higher overall efficiency in transport (more items moved per transporter and unit time). Our results suggest that small colonies may be extremely dependent on a few key individuals. In studying colony organisation and division of labour, the amount of work performed by each individual, not just task repertoire (which tasks are performed at all), should be taken into account.

Responsible editor: J. Traniello