Journal of Insect Behavior

, Volume 14, Issue 2, pp 247–269 | Cite as

Marking of Nest Entrances and Vicinity in Two Related Tetramorium Ant Species (Hymenoptera: Formicidae)

  • Marie-Claire Cammaerts
  • Roger Cammaerts


Workers of the related ants Tetramorium impurum and T. caespitum mark the vicinity of their nest entrances in a species-specific manner, as seen by similarities between the behavior of nestmates and that of alien conspecifics (e.g., concerning aggregation, locomotion, orientation, tendency to move, and agonistic behavior). Additionally, they mark the inside of their nest entrances in a colony-specific manner, as seen by the following differences in behavior. Nestmates aggregate on these areas, walk rather slowly, but freely and essentially in the middle of the areas, come toward and very near such areas, are not inclined to escape, and are ready to attack possible intruders. Alien conspecifics do not aggregate, walk quickly, and are reluctant to stay on the areas, come neither toward nor very near the areas, are inclined to escape, and often open their mandibles, mainly when in front of a resident. The marking of the nest entrances is performed by T. impurum in 30 min and by T. caespitum in 15 min. If not reinforced, the marking by both species vanishes in 60 and 50 min, respectively. Extracts of hindlegs, metathorax, or metapleural glands produce in unmarked areas the ethological effect of marked entrances. It may be hypothesized that the marking factor is produced by the workers' metapleural glands and deposited onto the ground, via the hindlegs of ants leaving the nest. A worker's head has a species- but not a colony-specific ethological effect. An isolated alien conspecific's head is never attacked, whereas a thorax with abdomen is. This explains why, by opening its mandibles (and then presumably emitting a mandibular gland pheromone), a conspecific ant momentarily inhibits the attack of a nonnestmate. According to Hölldobler and Wilson (1990), the marking of the inside of T. impurum and T. caespitum nest entrances is a territorial and nest-entrance marking, whereas the marking of the close vicinity of the entrances is a home-range marking, as is the marking of the foraging area. These markings are in accordance with the fact that T. impurum foragers deposit their trail pheromone as far as the opening of the nest entrance.

ants marking metapleural glands nest entrance territoriality Tetramorium 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marie-Claire Cammaerts
    • 1
  • Roger Cammaerts
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratoire de Biologie Animale et Cellulaire, Faculté des SciencesUniversité Libre de BruxellesBruxellesBelgium

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