Skip to main content
Log in

Ants versus spiders: interference competition between two social predators

Insectes Sociaux Aims and scope Submit manuscript

Cite this article


Interference competition can profoundly influence the outcome of species interactions and may lead to either coexistence or exclusion. Our understanding of how interference can lead to coexistence remains incomplete, particularly when interference fails to result in resource partitioning. I document a novel form of interference competition between an ant (Myrmecia pyriformis) and a social spider (Delena cancerides) with similar foraging patterns. Of 120 nest boxes occupied by D. cancerides in the field, 7 (6 %) were invaded by M. pyriformis ants over a 2-month period. After eliminating spiders from the nest boxes, the ants proceeded to fill the boxes with debris, rendering them useless to the spiders. The ants do not occupy the nest boxes; thus, interference occurs at a resource that is necessary to one species, but not the other. I discuss how further research into this system may improve our understanding of how interference competition can support coexistence. I also suggest modeling exploitation and interference competition on multiple resources to align with this and other empirical examples where different forms of competition occur for different resources.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Institutional subscriptions

Fig. 1
Fig. 2


  • Amarasekare P. 2002. Interference competition and species coexistence. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B. 269: 2541-2550

  • Amarasekare P. 2003. Competitive coexistence in spatially structured environments: a synthesis. Ecol. Lett. 6: 1109-1122

  • Case T.J. and Gilpin M.E. 1974. Interference competition and niche theory. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 71: 3073-3077

  • Gordon D.M. 1988. Nest-plugging: interference competition in desert ants (Novomessor cockerelli and Pogonomyrmex barbatus). Oecologia 75: 114-118

  • Grasso D.A., Mori A., Giovannotti M. and Le Moli F. 2004. Interspecific interference behaviours by workers of the harvesting ant Messor capitatus (Hymenoptera Formicidae). Ethol. Ecol. Evol. 16: 197-207

  • Grether G.F., Anderson C.N., Drury J.P., Kirschel A.N.G., Losin N., Okamoto K. and Peiman K.S. 2013. The evolutionary consequences of interspecific aggression. Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci. 1289: 48-68

  • Narendra A., Reid S.F. and Hemmi J.M. 2010. The twilight zone: ambient light levels trigger activity in primitive ants. Proc. R. Soc. B. 277: 1531-1538

  • Peiman K.S. and Robinson B.W. 2010. Ecology and evolution of resource-related heterospecific aggression. Q. Rev. Biol. 85: 133-158

  • Reid S.F., Narendra A., Taylor R.W. and Zeil J. 2013. Foraging ecology of the night-active bull ant Myrmecia pyriformis. Aust. J. Zool. 61: 170-177

  • Rowell D.M. and Avilés L. 1995. Sociality in a bark-dwelling huntsman spider from Australia, Delena cancerides Walckenaer (Araneae: Sparassidae). Insect. Soc. 42: 287-302

  • Rowles A.D. and O’Dowd D.J. 2007. Interference competition by Argentine ants displaces native ants: implications for biotic resistance to invasion. Biol. Invasions 9: 73-85

  • Santos B.M., Dusky J.A., Stall W.M., Bewick T.A. and Shilling D.G. 2004. Mechanisms of interference of smooth pigweed (Amaranthus hybridus) and common purslane (Portulaca oleracea) on lettuce as influenced by phosphorus fertility. Weed Sci. 52: 78-82

  • Schoener T.W. 1983. Field experiments on interspecific competition. Am. Nat. 122: 240-285

  • Vance R.R. 1984. Interference competition and the coexistence of two competitors on a single limiting resource. Ecology 65: 1349-1357

  • Yip E.C. and Rayor L.S. 2011. Do social spiders cooperate in predator defense and foraging without a web? Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. 65: 1935-1947

  • Yip E.C. and Rayor L.S. 2014. Maternal care and subsocial behaviour in spiders. Biol. Rev. 89: 427-449

  • Yip E.C. and Rayor L.S. 2013. The influence of siblings on body condition in a social spider: is prey sharing cooperation or competition? Anim. Behav. 85: 1161-1168

  • Ziv Y., Abramsky Z., Kotler P.B. and Subach A. 1993. Interference competition and temporal and habitat partitioning in two gerbil species. Oikos 66: 237-246

Download references


Funding was provided by the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship and the Liu Memorial Fund. I thank Dr. David Rowell, who hosted me at The Australian National University while conducting this research. I also thank Alan Muir for help in nest box construction and Dr. Ajay Narendra for bulldog ant identification. I thank Drs. Yael Lubin and Linda Rayor and two anonymous reviewers for their thoughtful comments on the manuscript.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to E. C. Yip.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Yip, E.C. Ants versus spiders: interference competition between two social predators. Insect. Soc. 61, 403–406 (2014).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Revised:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: