Insectes Sociaux

, Volume 60, Issue 1, pp 1–5 | Cite as

Larger laboratory colonies consume proportionally less energy and have lower per capita brood production in Temnothorax ants

  • T. T. Cao
  • A. Dornhaus
Research Article


Colony size can affect individual- and colony-level behavioral and physiological traits in social insects. Changes in behavior and physiology in response to colony growth and development can affect productivity and fitness. Here, we used respirometry to study the relationship between colony size and colony energy consumption in Temnothorax rugatulus ants. In addition, we examined the relationship between colony size and worker productivity measured as per capita brood production. We found that colony metabolic rate scales with colony size to the 0.78 power and the number of brood scales with the number of workers to the 0.49 power. These regression analyses reveal that larger ant colonies use proportionally less energy and produce fewer brood per worker. Our findings provide new information on the relationships between colony size and energetic efficiency and productivity in a model ant genus. We discuss the potential mechanisms giving rise to allometric scaling of metabolic rate in ant colonies and the influence of colony size on energy consumption and productivity in general.


Metabolic scaling Colony productivity Colony size Ants Temnothorax 



We thank Brian Enquist and Mitchell Pavao-Zuckerman for helpful comments on the original manuscript. Two anonymous reviewers provided significantly helpful comments to improve the original draft. The Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Arizona provided funding for this work.


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Copyright information

© International Union for the Study of Social Insects (IUSSI) 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA

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