Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 62, Issue 8, pp 1369–1376 | Cite as

Efficiency and regulation of recruitment during colony emigration by the ant Temnothorax curvispinosus

  • Stephen C. Pratt
Original Paper


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.


Recruitment 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.


  1. Anderson C (2001) The adaptive value of inactive foragers and the scout-recruit system in honey bee (Apis mellifera) colonies. Behav Ecol 12:111–119Google Scholar
  2. Aron S, Deneubourg JL, Pasteels JM (1988) Visual cues and trail-following idiosyncrasy in Leptothorax unifasciatus: an orientation process during foraging. Insectes Soc 35:355–366CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Beckers R, Deneubourg JL, Goss S, Pasteels JM (1990) Collective decision-making through food recruitment. Insectes Soc 37:258–267CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bhatkar A, Whitcomb WH (1970) Artificial diet for rearing various species of ants. Fla Entomol 53:229–232CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Crist TO, Haefner JW (1994) Spatial model of movement and foraging in harvester ants (Pogonomyrmex) (II): the roles of environment and seed dispersion. J Theor Biol 166:315–323CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Dechaume-Moncharmont FX, Dornhaus A, Houston AI, McNamara JM, Collins EJ, Franks NR (2005) The hidden cost of information in collective foraging. Proc R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 272:1689–1695CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Deneubourg JL, Pasteels JM, Verhaeghe JC (1983) Probabilistic behavior in ants: a strategy of errors? J Theor Biol 105:259–271CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Detrain C, Deneubourg JL (2006) Self-organized structures in a superorganism: do ants “behave” like molecules? Phys Life Rev 3:162–187CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Detrain C, Pasteels JM (1992) Caste polyethism and collective defense in the ant Pheidole pallidula: the outcome of quantitative differences in recruitment. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 29:405–412CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Dornhaus A, Chittka L (2004a) Information flow and regulation of foraging activity in bumble bees (Bombus spp.). Apidologie 35:183–192CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Dornhaus A, Chittka L (2004b) Why do honey bees dance? Behav Ecol Sociobiol 55:395–401CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Dornhaus A, Klugl F, Oechslein C, Puppe F, Chittka L (2006) Benefits of recruitment in honey bees: effects of ecology and colony size in an individual-based model. Behav Ecol 17:336–344CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Dyer FC (2002) The biology of the dance language. Annu Rev Entomol 47:917–949PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Franks NR, Pratt SC, Mallon EB, Britton NF, Sumpter DJT (2002) Information flow, opinion polling and collective intelligence in house-hunting social insects. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 357:1567–1583PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Franks NR, Dornhaus A, Fitzsimmons JP, Stevens M (2003) Speed versus accuracy in collective decision making. Proc R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 270:2457–2463CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hölldobler B (1981) Foraging and spatiotemporal territories in the honey ant Myrmecocystus mimicus Wheeler (Hymenoptera, Formicidae). Behav Ecol Sociobiol 9:301–314CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hölldobler B, Wilson EO (1978) Multiple recruitment systems of African weaver ant Oecophylla longinoda (Latreille) (Hymenoptera, Formicidae). Behav Ecol Sociobiol 3:19–60CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hölldobler B, Wilson EO (1990) The ants. Belknap, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
  19. Hölldobler B, Möglich M, Maschwitz U (1974) Communication by tandem running in the ant Camponotus sericeus. J Comp Physiol 90:105–127CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Jaffe K, Deneubourg JL (1992) On foraging, recruitment systems and optimum number of scouts in eusocial colonies. Insectes Soc 39:201–213CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Johnson LK, Hubbell SP, Feener DH (1987) Defense of food supply by eusocial colonies. Am Zool 27:347–358Google Scholar
  22. Mailleux AC, Deneubourg JL, Detrain C (2003) Regulation of ants’ foraging to resource productivity. Proc R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 270:1609–1616CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Mallon EB, Franks NR (2000) Ants estimate area using Buffon’s needle. Proc R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 267:765–770CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Mallon EB, Pratt SC, Franks NR (2001) Individual and collective decision-making during nest site selection by the ant Leptothorax albipennis. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 50:352–359CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Maschwitz U, Lenz S, Buschinger A (1986) Individual specific trails in the ant Leptothorax affinis (Formicidae: Myrmicinae). Experientia 42:1173–1174CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. McLeman MA, Pratt SC, Franks NR (2002) Navigation using visual landmarks by the ant Leptothorax albipennis. Insectes Soc 49:203–208CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Möglich M (1978) Social organization of nest emigration in Leptothorax (Hym., Form.). Insectes Soc 25:205–225CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Möglich M, Hölldobler B (1975) Communication and orientation during foraging and emigration in ant Formica fusca. J Comp Physiol 101:275–288CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Nicolis SC, Detrain C, Demolin D, Deneubourg JL (2003) Optimality of collective choices: a stochastic approach. Bull Math Biol 65:795–808PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Nieh JC (2004) Recruitment communication in stingless bees (Hymenoptera, Apidae, Meliponini). Apidologie 35:159–182CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Passino KM, Seeley TD (2006) Modeling and analysis of nest-site selection by honeybee swarms: the speed and accuracy trade-off. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 59:427–442CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Pasteels JM, Bordereau C (1998) Releaser pheromones in termites. In: Vandermeer RK, Breed MD, Winston ML, Espelie KE (eds) Pheromone communication in social insects. Westview, Boulder, CO, pp 193–215Google Scholar
  33. Pratt SC (2005a) Behavioral mechanisms of collective nest-site choice by the ant Temnothorax curvispinosus. Insectes Soc 52:383–392CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Pratt SC (2005b) Quorum sensing by encounter rates in the ant Temnothorax albipennis. Behav Ecol 16:488–496CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Pratt SC, Sumpter DJT (2006) A tunable algorithm for collective decision-making. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 103:15906–15910PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Pratt SC, Mallon EB, Sumpter DJT, Franks NR (2002) Quorum sensing, recruitment, and collective decision-making during colony emigration by the ant Leptothorax albipennis. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 52:117–127CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Pratt SC, Sumpter DJT, Mallon EB, Franks NR (2005) An agent-based model of collective nest choice by the ant Temnothorax albipennis. Anim Behav 70:1023–1036CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Richardson TO, Houston AI, Franks NR (2007) Teaching with evaluation in ants. Curr Biol 17:1520–1526PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Richter MR (2000) Social wasp (Hymenoptera: Vespidae) foraging behavior. Annu Rev Entomol 45:121–150PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Robson SK, Traniello JFA (1998) Resource assessment, recruitment behavior, and organization of cooperative prey retrieval in the ant Formica schaufussi (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). J Insect Behav 11:1–22CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Schatz B, Lachaud JP, Beugnon G (1997) Graded recruitment and hunting strategies linked to prey weight and size in the ponerine ant Ectatomma ruidum. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 40:337–349CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Seeley TD (1985) Honeybee ecology. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJGoogle Scholar
  43. Seeley TD (1995) The wisdom of the hive. Belknap, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
  44. Seeley TD, Visscher PK (1988) Assessing the benefits of cooperation in honeybee foraging: search costs, forage quality, and competitive ability. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 22:229–237CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Seeley TD, Visscher PK, Passino KM (2006) Group decision making in honey bee swarms. Am Sci 94:220–229CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Sherman G, Visscher PK (2002) Honeybee colonies achieve fitness through dancing. Nature 419:920–922PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Sumpter DJT, Beekman M (2003) From nonlinearity to optimality: pheromone trail foraging by ants. Anim Behav 66:273–280CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Sumpter DJT, Pratt SC (2008) Quorum responses and consensus decision-making. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B (in press)Google Scholar
  49. Visscher PK (2007) Group decision making in nest-site selection among social insects. Annu Rev Entomol 52:255–275PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Wilson EO (1962) Chemical communication among workers of the fire ant Solenopsis saevissima (Fr. Smith). 2. An information analysis of the odour trail. Anim Behav 10:148–158CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Wilson EO (1971) The insect societies. Belknap, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Life SciencesArizona State UniversityTempeUSA

Personalised recommendations