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Sci Rep. 2019 Mar 1;9(1):3283. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-39756-4.

Food Transport of Red Imported Fire Ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) on Vertical Surfaces.

Author information

1
Guangdong Key Laboratory for Innovation Development and Utilization of Forest Plant Germplasm, College of Forestry and Landscape Architecture, South China Agricultural University, Guangzhou, 510642, China.
2
Department of Biology, Salisbury University, Salisbury, MD, 21801, USA.
3
Biological Control of Pests Research Unit, Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Stoneville, MS, 38776, USA.
4
College of Agriculture, South China Agricultural University, Guangzhou, 510642, China.
5
Guangdong Key Laboratory for Innovation Development and Utilization of Forest Plant Germplasm, College of Forestry and Landscape Architecture, South China Agricultural University, Guangzhou, 510642, China. wenxiujun@scau.edu.cn.
6
Guangdong Key Laboratory for Innovation Development and Utilization of Forest Plant Germplasm, College of Forestry and Landscape Architecture, South China Agricultural University, Guangzhou, 510642, China. wangcai@scau.edu.cn.

Abstract

Many ants can cooperatively transport large food items (either coordinated or uncoordinated during transportation), which can be rarely observed in other animals besides humans. Although these behaviors have been extensively investigated on horizontal surfaces, few studies dealt with food transport on vertical surfaces. The red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta Buren, is an invasive ant species that commonly forages on trees. Our studies showed that S. invicta used multiple strategies to transport food items on vertical surfaces (tree trunks). Small food items (1 × 1 × 1 mm sausage) were carried and transported by individual ants, and larger food items were either collectively and directly transported or cut collaboratively first and small particles were then transported individually or collectively. Competition and deadlocks were frequently observed during individual and collective transport respectively. During cutting, groups of ants tightly fixed the food on the tree trunks by holding the edges of the food item, while other ants cut the food into smaller particles. All food items and particles were moved downward. We investigated the effects of food placement (placed on a platform or fixed on tree trunk), food shape (cuboid or flattened), particle sizes (0.45-1, 1-2, 2-3, or 3-4 mm), and placement height (20, 80, or 150 cm) on the food transport on tree trunks. Our studies are the first to show how fire ants transport food on a vertical surface, and may provide insights into the development of novel fire ant baiting systems that can be placed on tree trunks.

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