Nest architecture of the ant Formica pallidefulva: structure, costs and rules of excavation
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The architecture of underground ant nests was studied in the ant Formica pallidefulva. These ants build shallow (30–45 cm deep) nests, which consist of more or less vertical shafts that bear chambers. Shafts are modular units of nest growth; nests are enlarged by adding more shafts or extending previously existing ones. The nests are top-heavy, their volume declining exponentially with depth. The total volume of the nest is strongly correlated with the number of worker occupying the nest (R2 = 0.87). Some of the rules and templates used by workers for nest construction were determined: (a) chambers are formed in the direction of the tunnels leading up to them, (b) the amount of soil excavated per unit time increases with soil temperature and moisture content. The amount of time and energy required to construct a typical nest were approximated using digging ability parameters determined in the lab. We estimate that if a colony was to move twice a year, it would expend around 20% of its energy intake and at least 6% of its worker time on nest excavation.
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