Entomological Review

, Volume 91, Issue 2, pp 231–240 | Cite as

Behavior of red wood ants (Hymenoptera, Formicidae) during interaction with different symbiont partners



A comparative analysis of the behavior of Formica polyctena Först during interaction with different symbionts (free-living aphids Aphis grossulariae Kalt. and hidden larvae of the sawfly Blasticotoma filiceti Klug) was carried out. Red wood ants demonstrate different levels of functional differentiation in relatively constant groups of foragers collecting honeydew. A deep “professional” specialization with clear division of a number of tasks among foragers was studied in groups of ants tending aphids. Four professional groups of foragers with different tasks were revealed: “shepherds,” “guards,” “transporters,” and “scouts” (or “coordinators”). The groups of foragers caring for sawfly larvae mainly consist of unspecialized ants. Only few ants (about 5%) remain on duty on the fern plant near B. filiceti larvae and protect the food resource from competitors, especially from other ants. In addition, the ants demonstrate simpler behavior while collecting the larval excretion, resembling that at the sugar feeders. On the whole, the behavior of red wood ants is rather flexible. The level of functional differentiation in groups of foragers collecting honeydew is determined not only by the colony size and requirements but by the nature of their interaction with trophobionts, particularly, by the possibility of direct contact.


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© Pleiades Publishing, Ltd. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Systematics and Ecology of Animals, Siberian BranchRussian Academy of SciencesNovosibirskRussia

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