Hydrocarbons on Harvester Ant (Pogonomyrmex barbatus) Middens Guide Foragers to the Nest
- First Online:
- Cite this article as:
- Sturgis, S.J., Greene, M.J. & Gordon, D.M. J Chem Ecol (2011) 37: 514. doi:10.1007/s10886-011-9947-y
- 176 Views
Colony-specific cuticular hydrocarbons are used by social insects in nestmate recognition. Here, we showed that hydrocarbons found on the mound of Pogonomyrmex barbatus nests facilitate the return of foragers to the nest. Colony-specific hydrocarbons, which ants use to distinguish nestmates from non-nestmates, are found on the midden pebbles placed on the nest mound. Midden hydrocarbons occur in a concentration gradient, growing stronger near the nest entrance, which is in the center of a 1–2 m diameter nest mound. Foraging behavior was disrupted when the gradient of hydrocarbons was altered experimentally. When midden material was diluted with artificial pebbles lacking the colony-specific hydrocarbons, the speed of returning foragers decreased significantly. The chemical environment of the nest mound contributes to the regulation of foraging behavior in harvester ants.