Ant-aphid mutualisms: the impact of honeydew production and honeydew sugar composition on ant preferences
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The honeydew composition and production of four aphid species feeding on Tanacetum vulgare, and mutualistic relationships with the ant Lasius niger were studied. In honeydew of Metopeurum fuscoviride and Brachycaudus cardui, xylose, glucose, fructose, sucrose, maltose, melezitose, and raffinose were detected. The proportion of trisaccharides (melezitose, raffinose) ranged between 20% and 35%. No trisaccharides were found in honeydew of Aphis fabae, and honeydew of Macrosiphoniella tanacetaria consisted of only xylose, glucose and sucrose. M. fuscoviride produced by far the largest amounts of honeydew per time unit (880 μg/aphid per hour), followed by B. cardui (223 μg/aphid per hour), A. fabae (133 μg/aphid per hour) and M. tanacetaria (46 μg/aphid per hour). The qualitative and quantitative honeydew production of the aphid species corresponded well with the observed attendance by L. niger. L. niger workers preferred trisaccharides over disaccharides and monosaccharides when these sugars were offered in choice tests. The results are consistent with the ants' preference for M. fuscoviride, which produced the largest amount of honeydew including a considerable proportion of the trisaccharides melezitose and raffinose. The preference of L. niger for B. cardui over A. fabae, both producing similar amounts of honeydew, may be explained by the presence of trisaccharides and the higher total sugar concentration in B. cardui honeydew. M. tanacetaria, which produced only low quantities of honeydew with no trisaccharides was not attended at all by L. niger.
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