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Spatial organization in ants’ nests: does starvation modify the aggregative behaviour of Lasius niger species?

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Ant colonies that undergo long starvation periods have to tune their exploratory and foraging responses to face their food needs. Although the number of foragers is known to increase with food deprivation in the ant Lasius niger, such enhanced food exploitation is not related to a more intense recruitment by successful scouts. We thus suggest that the colony’s response to a food shortage could result from changes at the level of the ant recruits, in particular from changes in their spatial organization inside the nest. Since aggregation plays a key role in the social organization of ants, we assume that the colony’s response to starvation could be due to changes in the aggregative behaviour of L. niger nestmates.We thus compared the aggregation dynamics of inner-nest workers and foragers having undergone either a short or a long-lasting starvation period. Whatever the ethological group (foragers or inner-nest workers), there was no significant influence of starvation on the aggregation dynamics nor on any feature of the observed clusters. This result shows that an increased foraging response to food shortage cannot be explained by changes in the tendency of nestmates to aggregate within the nest. Finally, we discuss other behavioural mechanisms, in particular changes in behavioural thresholds that could underlie the adaptive changes seen in colony foraging after long starvation periods.

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Correspondence to S. Depickère.

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Received 25 June 2007; revised 21 January 2008; accepted 24 January 2008.

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Depickère, S., Fresneau, D., Deneubourg, J. et al. Spatial organization in ants’ nests: does starvation modify the aggregative behaviour of Lasius niger species?. Insect. Soc. 55, 163–170 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00040-008-0986-5

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  • Lasius niger
  • Clustering
  • food shortage
  • mechanism
  • polyethism