How ants find each other; temporal and spatial patterns in nuptial flights
Reproduction is a key factor in understanding population ecology and therefore species occurrence. However, patterns in reproductive behaviour for distinct ant species remain insufficiently known. In this paper strategies in mate finding are studied for six ant species (Lasius niger, Lasius umbratus, Temnothorax nylanderi, Myrmica rubra, Myrmica ruginodis, Stenamma debile) in a forest – forest edge – agricultural field gradient. Using window traps, we studied whether these species had a restricted nuptial flight season, displayed swarming behaviour, and whether the alates aggregated at the forest edge. The flight season was limited to one month or less for L. niger, T. nylanderi, M. rubra, M. ruginodis and S. debile. Swarming behaviour occurred in all but one (L. umbratus) species. Although none of the six species seemed to have highest nest density at the forest edge, three of them, M. rubra, M. ruginodis and S. debile, showed male aggregations there, indicating this to be the main reproduction site. This last finding could be due to a more suitable micro-climate, but most likely, edges are conspicuous land marks which are used by ants to meet mates. The behavioural patterns of ant sexuals at the forest edge can influence dispersal possibilities in fragmented landscapes, reproductive success and nest densities.
Keywords:Edge effects flight phenology Formicidae mate finding reproduction
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