, Volume 53, Issue 3, pp 406–411 | Cite as

The effect of predation of western widow spiders (Araneae: Theridiidae) on harvester ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae)

  • William P. MacKay


Spiders have been shown to be important predators on ant populations, although ant mortality may be low. Western widow spider (Latrodectus hesperus) predation on Pogonomyrmex rugosus ant nests is slight, less than 0.2% of the nest population per day. Yet, the ants respond by halting foraging temporarily and may even close the nest entrace with pebbles. If spiders are removed from such nests, the ants become active within 24 h and within five days foraging activity reaches higher levels than at any previous time of the year.

Ants have at least four responses to spiders predation: 1) Moving the nest entrace; 2) posting of “guards”; 3) attacking the spiders; 4) halting foraging. Pogonomyrmex rugosus practices the fourth response, although it results in losses of food intake into the nest. This is apparently the only option available. If the ants continue to forage, the spider density may increase, resulting in heavy mortality of the ants.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • William P. MacKay
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of CaliforniaRiverside

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