Ant behavior: August 2011 Archives

Hi Antweb,

I am a PhD student in Synthetic Biology and I've read that you talked about artificial insemination trials in ants, which have not be very successful. Would you mind giving me the references of the papers talking about that?

Best,
Xavier


Hi Xavier,

Thanks for your question! As you have read in this post on "How to breed ants", artificial insemination in ants has not been very successful and only been tested on very few species. Cupp et al. (1973) conducted an experiment in which the authors decapitated males. Queens were anesthetized with CO2, and stroked against the males to induce ejaculation. This experiment was done using fire ants (Solenopsis invicta). Read here to find out more about the red imported fire ant.

In a study by Bell et al. (1983) instrumental insemination was conducted, also using the fire ant Solenopsis invicta. Virgin queens were induced to fly, anesthetized with CO2 and inseminated with either a mixture of sperm extracted from the male seminal vesicles and accessory gland contents or sperm alone. Of the females we artificially inseminated 65% produced workers. Artificial insemination techniques have also been carried out using Atta leaf-cutter ants (den Boer et al. 2010).

A recent review article on the copulation biology of ants has been published by Boris Baer (2011) in the journal Myrmecological News. Here is a link to the pdf. In this paper, some more references to studies conducting artificial insemination in honey bees and bumble bees are given.

All the best,
Steffi Kautz & the AntAsk Team


References

Ball DE, Mirenda JT, Sorensen AA & Vinson SB (1983) Instrumental insemination of the fire ant, Solenopsis invicta. Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata 33: 195-202.

Baer, B (2011) The copulation biology of ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Myrmecological News 14: 55-68.

Cupp EW, O'Neal J, Kearney G, Markin GP, (1973) Forced copulation of imported fire ant reproductives. Annals of the Entomological Society of America 66:743-745.

den Boer SPA, Baer B, Boomsma JJ (2010) Seminal fluid mediates ejaculate competition in social insects. Science 327: 1506-1509.

Hi,

We live in the northeast corner of Vermont - close to the 45th parallel. My husband was logging dead trees just inside the woods. He cut down a two-part cottonwood that was large. It was like two cottonwoods had grown together or one had been cut long ago and shoots grew up onto the old tree. But where the V of this tree was, there was soil and that is where the ants lived. When the tree fell, the ants began moving the pupae into the forest floor. Right down under the earth. I did the best I could with the photos and have collected them into a Flickr set. Could you please ID them, if possible? The photos were taken on July 9, 2011.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/meeyauw/sets/72157627234873339/

Thank you very much for any help,
Andree
Barton, VT

Lasius.jpg

Lasius umbratus with pupae in rotten log.

Hi Andree,

Thanks for your question. We have deferred to James Trager, an ant expert with a lot of experience in ant identifications and a expert naturalist in general. Here is what he had to say:

"Almost certainly Lasius umbratus. This speices is not arboreal, but lives in soil, logs, stumps, or dead hollows of trees. It lines its nest chambers with a mix of wood pulp and a characteristic black fungus, visible in the pictures. They cultivate large numbers of pale reddish tan aphids on roots, probably including those of the tree in which they lived. In winter, the aphids are gathered up and pass the cold period in a large chamber together with the ants, then in spring are dispersed out among the roots to feed. The aphids provide lots of honey dew and some meat."

So, you not only found ants, but an entire little ecosystem when cutting the wood. Very interesting!

All the best,
James Trager (guest expert), Steffi Kautz & the AntAsk Team

I have a Lasius niger queen and she is mated, have had her for around 2 months now and she has laid several times, but each time the lava go black and never hatch. I think this is because they are not being fed. I have put some small dead bugs in the tank with her but she doesn't leave her little tunnel to ever get to them so I am constantly removing them and adding new ones in hope she will get them to sustain the brood. If I were to collect some ants from my garden (making sure they were also Lasius niger) and put them in with her would they kill her because they were from a different colony?

Please advise.

Best regards,
Tom


Hi Tom,

My suggestion is to interfere as little as possible. It is normal that queens do not take up any food during the initial founding phase. They use the energy from the decomposition of wing muscle tissue to feed the first round of larvae and these will always turn into small workers. Sometimes they lay so-called trophic eggs, which serve to feed the larvae. However, it is quite likely that a queen does not have the strength to make it through the initial founding phase of a colony. For this reason, colonies produce thousands of queen. This increases the likelihood that one will eventually make it. And this would be my advice: try to get several queens and hopefully one or a few will make it.

You are right that workers from different colonies will most likely kill the queen.

Hope this helps!
Steffi Kautz & the AntAsk Team

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