Original Article

Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 31, Issue 4, pp 829-843

First online:

Diet-Related Modification of Cuticular Hydrocarbon Profiles of the Argentine Ant, Linepithema humile, Diminishes Intercolony Aggression

  • Grzegorz BuczkowskiAffiliated withDepartment of Entomology, North Carolina State UniversityDepartment of Entomology, Purdue University
  • , Ranjit KumarAffiliated withDepartment of Chemistry, University of Connecticut
  • , Steven L. SuibAffiliated withDepartment of Chemistry, University of Connecticut
  • , Jules SilvermanAffiliated withDepartment of Entomology, North Carolina State University Email author 

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Territorial boundaries between conspecific social insect colonies are maintained through a highly developed nestmate recognition system modulated by heritable and, in some instances, nonheritable cues. Argentine ants, Linepithema humile, use both genetic and environmentally derived cues to discriminate nestmates from nonnestmates. We explored the possibility that intraspecific aggression in the Argentine ant might diminish when colonies shared a common diet. After segregating recently field-collected colony pairs into high or moderate aggression categories, we examined the effect of one of three diets: two hydrocarbon-rich insect prey, Blattella germanica and Supella longipalpa, and an artificial (insect-free) diet, on the magnitude of aggression loss. Aggression diminished between colony pairs that were initially moderately aggressive. However, initially highly aggressive colony pairs maintained high levels of injurious aggression throughout the study, independent of diet type. Each diet altered the cuticular hydrocarbon profile by contributing unique, diet-specific cues. We suggest that acquisition of common exogenous nestmate recognition cues from shared food sources may diminish aggression and promote fusion in neighboring colonies of the Argentine ant.

Key Words

Argentine ant cuticular hydrocarbons diet invasive ants nestmate recognition unicoloniality