Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 33, Issue 4, pp 209–223 | Cite as

Resource allocation, brood production and cannibalism during colony founding in the fire ant,Solenopsis invicta

  • Walter R. Tschinkel


The colony founding characteristics of newly mated fire ant queens from monogyne colonies were studied in the field and in the laboratory under haplo- and pleometrotic conditions. Initial queen weight (live) was not correlated with subsequent progeny production. During founding, queens lost a mean of 54% of their lean weight, 73% of their fat weight and 67% of their energy content. The percentage of fat decreased from 44% to 33%. Queens lost weight or energy in relation to the amount of progeny they produced (Figs. 1, 2). The efficiency of the conversion of queen to progeny increased as more progeny were produced, leading to a decline in the unit cost of progeny (Fig. 3). The more minims a queen produced, the lower the mean weight of these minims and the faster they developed (Fig. 4). In a field experiment on pleometrotic founding, total brood increased with queen number, peaked between four and seven queens and declined with 10 queens (Fig. 5). Brood developed faster at the sunny, warmer site, but total production and queen survival was higher at the shady site. As queen density increased, production per queen decreased as a negative exponential in which the exponent estimated sensitivity of brood production to queen-crowding and the constant estimated the production by solo queens (Fig. 9). These effects of queen number were confirmed in laboratory experiments. The decrease of production per queen was small and not always detectable during the egg-laying phase, but brood attrition was always strong during the larval period and increased with queen number (Figs. 8, 10). While airborne factors may have contributed to this inhibition, most of the brood reduction was due to other causes, probably cannibalism. For a given number of minims, increased queen number increased the mean weight of these minims, an effect that resulted both from a lower minim production per queen and from cannibalism of dead queens by survivors (Fig. 11). Cannibal queens lost much less weight to produce a given number of minims than unfed control queens, and these minims were heavier (Fig. 12).

Key words

Pleometrosis Formicidae Worker size Cannibalism Haplometrosis Colony development 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Baroni-Urbani C (1991) Indiscriminate oophagy by ant larvae: an explanation for brood serial organization. Insectes Soc 38:229–239CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bartz SH, Hölldobler B (1982) Colony founding inMyrmecocystus mimicus Wheeler and the evolution of foundress associations. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 10:137–147CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Dixon WJ (1985) BMDP statistical software manual. University of California Press, BerkeleyGoogle Scholar
  4. Fletcher DJC, Blum MS (1983) The inhibitory pheromone of queen fire ants: effects of disinhibition on dealation and oviposition by virgin queens. J Comp Physiol 153:467–475CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Goetsch W (1937) Die Entstehung der Soldaten im Ameisenstaat. Naturwissenschaften 25: 803–808CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Hölldobler B, EO Wilson (1977) The number of queens: an important trait in ant evolution. Naturwissenschaften 64:8–15CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Hölldobler B, Wilson EO (1990) The ants. Belknap Press of Harvard University, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  8. Hood GW, Tschinkel WR (1990) Dessication resistance in arboreal and terrestrial ants. Physiol Entomol 15:23–35Google Scholar
  9. Keller L, Passera L (1989). Size and fat content of gynes in relation to the mode of colony founding in ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Oecologia 80:236–240Google Scholar
  10. Markin GP, Collins HL, Dillier JH (1972) Colony founding by queens of the red imported fire ant,Solenopsis invicta. Ann Entomol Soc Am 65:1053–1058Google Scholar
  11. Nonacs P (1992) Queen condition and alate density affect pleometrosis in the antLasius pallitarsis. Insectes Soc 39:3–13CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Passera L (1977) Production des Soldats dans les sociétés sortant hibernation chez la fourmiPheidole pallidula. Insectes Soc 24:136–146Google Scholar
  13. Peakin G (1972) Aspects of productivity inTetramorium caespitum L. Ekol Pol 20:55–63Google Scholar
  14. Petersen-Braun M (1977) Untersuchungen zur sozialen Organisation der Pharaoameise,Monomorium pharaonis. Insectes Soc 24:303–318Google Scholar
  15. Pollock GB, Rissing SW (1989) Interspecific brood raiding, territoriality and slavery in ants. Am Nat 133:61–70CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Porter SD, Tschinkel WR (1985a) Fire ant polymorphism: the ergonomics of brood production. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 16:323–336CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Porter SD, Tschinkel WR (1985b) Fire ant polymorphism (Hymenoptera: Formicidae): factors affecting worker size. Ann Entomol Soc Am 78:381–386Google Scholar
  18. Porter SD, Tschinkel WR (1986) Adaptive value of nanitic workers in incipient fire ant colonies. Ann Entomol Soc Am 79:723–726Google Scholar
  19. Rissing SW, Pollock GB (1987) Queen aggression, pleometrotic advantage and brood raiding in the antVeromessor pagandei. Anim Behav 35:975–981Google Scholar
  20. Ryan TA, Joiner BL, Ryan BF (1982) Minitab reference manual. Duxburg Press, BostonGoogle Scholar
  21. Schmuck LM, Metz CB (1931) A method for study of chromosomes in entire insect eggs. Science 74:600–601Google Scholar
  22. Toom PM, Cupp E, Johnson CP, Griffin I (1976) Utilization of body reserves for minim brood development by queens of the imported fire ant,Solenopsis invicta. J Insect Physiol 22:217–220CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Tschinkel WR (1988) Colony growth and the ontogeny of worker polymorphism in the fire ant,Solenopsis invicta. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 22:103–115CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Tschinkel WR (1992a) Brood raiding in the fire ant,Solenopsis invicta: field and laboratory studies. Ann Entom Soc Am 85:638–696Google Scholar
  25. Tschinkel WR (1992b) Brood raiding and the population dynamics of founding and incipient colonies of the fire ant,Solenopsis invicta. Ecol Entomol 17:179–188Google Scholar
  26. Tschinkel WR, Howard DF (1983) Colony founding by pleometrosis in the fire ant,Solenopsis invicta. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 12:103–113CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Vargo EL (1988) Effects of pleometrosis and colony size on the production of sexuals in monogyne colonies of the fire antSolenopsis invicta. In: Trager JC (ed) Advances in Myrmecology. E.J. Brill, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  28. Vargo EL (1992) Mutual pheromonal inhibition among queens in polygyne colonies of the fire antSolenopsis invicta. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 31:205–210CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Vargo EL, Fletcher DJC (1989) On the relationship between queen number and fecundity in polygyne colonies of the fire antSolenopsis invicta. Physiol Entomol 14:223–232Google Scholar
  30. Vargo EL, Ross KG (1989) Differential viability of eggs laid by queens in polygyne colonies of the fire ant,Solenopsis invicta. J Insect Physiol 35:587–593CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Vander Meer RK (1986) Chemical taxonomy as a tool for separatingSolenopsis spp. In: Lofgren CS, Vander Meer RK (eds) Fire ants and leaf-cutter ants: biology and managment. Westview, Boulder, pp. 316–326Google Scholar
  32. Voss SH (1985) Rapid, simple DNA staining for fire ant eggs. J Entomol Sci 20:47–49Google Scholar
  33. Voss SH, Blum MS (1987) Trophic and embryonated egg production in founding colonies of the fire antSolenopsis invicta (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Sociobiol 13:271–278Google Scholar
  34. Waloff N (1957) The effect of the number of queens of the antLasius flavus (Fab.) (Hym., Formicidae) on their survival and on the rate of development of the first brood. Insectes Soc 4:391–408Google Scholar
  35. Wood LA, Tschinkel WR (1981) Quantification and modification of worker size variation in the fire antSolenopsis invicta. Insectes Soc 28:117–128Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Walter R. Tschinkel
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biological ScienceFlorida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA

Personalised recommendations