Dispersed central-place foraging in the polydomous odorous house ant, Tapinoma sessile as revealed by a protein marker
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The odorous house ant, Tapinoma sessile, is a native ant species common throughout North America. In urban areas, this ant is classified a pest species and exhibits several attributes characteristic of invasive “tramp” ants (sensu Passera, 1994). These include: extreme polygyny, colony reproduction by budding, reduced internest aggression, generalist diet, and polydomy. Here we explore the organization of foraging and the pathways of food distribution in polydomous colonies of T. sessile in the laboratory and field using a novel marking technique (rabbit IgG protein) and enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Laboratory assays revealed patterns of food allocation from foragers to other castes and developmental stages. Foragers distributed the IgG- labelled sucrose to the majority of workers within 24 h, and workers retained significantly more sucrose than either queens or larvae. Approximately 50% of queens tested positive for the IgG marker and some queens received significantly more sucrose than others, indicating a possible reproductive dominance hierarchy. Larvae received little sucrose demonstrating their minor reliance on carbohydrates. The results of field experiments showed that odorous house ants are dispersed central-place foragers whereby ants from individual nests exhibit high foraging site fidelity, travel along well-established trails, and forage on a local scale. Dispersed central-place foraging most likely allows the odorous house ant to more efficiently secure both clumped and dispersed food sources and possibly increases its competitive ability. As a result, colonies become numerically large and ecologically dominant. The results of our study contribute to our understanding of the social behavior and colony organization in T. sessile. In addition, they provide a framework for designing more effective ant control programs based on liquid baits.
Keywords.Tapinoma sessile foraging range immunomarking odorous house ant polydomy
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