Efficiency and regulation of recruitment during colony emigration by the ant Temnothorax curvispinosus
Recruitment helps insect societies by bringing individuals to places where work needs to be done, but it also imposes energetic and opportunity costs. The net effect depends both on recruitment efficiency and on the ease with which insects can find work sites on their own. This study examined both of these factors for colony emigration by the ant Temnothorax curvispinosus. Emigrations were organized by a corps of active ants who transported the rest of the colony. These active ants either found new sites independently or followed tandem runs led by successful scouts. Although most tandem runs broke apart before reaching their target, even lost followers found the new site faster than did unguided searchers. When the new site was near the old nest, tandem runs were rare and summoned only a small proportion of the transporter corps. When the new site was instead distant and inconspicuous, tandem runs were common and brought roughly one third of the transporters. This pattern likely results from the quorum rule used by individual scouts to decide when to switch from tandem runs to transports. By monitoring how many nestmates have already found the nest, the ants ensure that the costs of recruitment are born only when necessary.
KeywordsRecruitment Communication Nest site selection Quorum-sensing
This work was supported by the Pew Charitable Trusts (award 2000-002558). I thank Binna Lieh and Dan Glatt for assistance in reviewing videotaped emigrations. The work described here complies with the current laws of the USA.
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