, Volume 136, Issue 4, pp 508–514

Gustatory perception and metabolic utilization of sugars by Myrmica rubra ant workers


DOI: 10.1007/s00442-003-1249-9

Cite this article as:
Boevé, J. & Wäckers, F.L. Oecologia (2003) 136: 508. doi:10.1007/s00442-003-1249-9


The suitability of various nectar and honeydew sugars as a food source for the polyphagous ant species M. rubra (L.) was studied. The sugars used included monosaccharides (fructose, glucose, galactose, mannose, rhamnose), disaccharides (sucrose, maltose, trehalose, melibiose, lactose) and trisaccharides (melizitose, raffinose, erlose). Single-sugar solutions were tested on ant workers in a long-term laboratory bioassay in which acceptance of the solutions and ant survival were recorded. The acceptance of the sugars was confirmed in a second bioassay in which feeding time was established. Enzymatic hydrolysis of sucrose, maltose and melibiose was investigated through HPLC analyses of workers fed these disaccharides. Sugar acceptance and feeding time were related to ant survival. Considering the monosaccharide units of which the sugars are composed, fructose seems especially suitable as a short-term energy source, while glucose appears to be used both directly and for storage. The presence of a galactose unit appears to reduce sugar suitability. It is suggested that the workers possess invertase and maltase and to a lesser degree also galactosidase. The gustatory perception is correlated with the profitability of sugars in further metabolic processes.


FormicidaeSurvivalAcceptanceEnzymatic hydrolysisNutritive value

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Département d'EntomologieRoyal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, IRSNB-KBINBrusselsBelgium
  2. 2.Netherlands Institute for EcologyCTO ZG HeterenThe Netherlands