Plant Systematics and Evolution

, Volume 258, Issue 1–2, pp 17–26

A supplementary contribution of ants in the pollination of an orchid, Epipactis thunbergii, usually pollinated by hover flies


DOI: 10.1007/s00606-005-0391-8

Cite this article as:
Sugiura, N., Miyazaki, S. & Nagaishi, S. Plant Syst. Evol. (2006) 258: 17. doi:10.1007/s00606-005-0391-8


It has been controversial how extensively ants contribute to pollination, and we evaluated the contribution of the Japanese carpenter ant, Camponotus japonicus, to the pollination of an orchid, Epipactis thunbergii. Two-year field studies revealed that (1) the ant workers foraged even in cool/cloudy conditions and accordingly visited orchid flowers more frequently (about 40% of all the visitors) than hover flies, the principle pollinators (10–20%), and that (2) the flower-visiting ants occasionally removed pollinia from the anther and then delivered pollen onto the stigmatic surface of other flowers, although self-pollination might frequently occur in the consecutive visits of flowers within an inflorescence. An artificial pollination experiment with pollinia which had been transferred to the ant integument showed that (3) the treated flowers produced as many fruits and seeds as control flowers. We concluded that C. japonicus workers could actually pollinate E. thunbergii flowers and their relative importance as pollinators appeared to be largely dependent on the abundance of flower-visiting workers or weather conditions during the flowering period, which mainly determined the availability of hover flies.


Ant pollination metapleural glands orchid Orchidaceae Epipactis Camponotus 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Wien 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of ScienceKumamoto UniversityKumamotoJapan
  2. 2.Graduate School of Environmental Earth ScienceHokkaido UniversitySapporoJapan

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