Nutrition and interference competition have interactive effects on the behavior and performance of Argentine ants

Adam D. Kay, Zumbusch Taylor, Justa L. Heinen, Tom G. Marsh, David A. Holway

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Food availability often influences competitive outcomes through, effects on. consumer growth. Although it has received less attention, food availability may also affect competition through nutritional effects on behavior. One hypothesis linking nutrition and competition in ants posits that increased access to carbohydrates favors greater investment in worker traits that underlie behavioral dominance. We tested this hypothesis by varying dietary protein : carbohydrate (P:C) ratios and levels of interspecific interference for Argentine ants (Linepithema humile), a widespread invasive species. As predicted, colonies facing interference increased patrolling more when reared on low P:C diets; this result is the first demonstration of an interactive effect of nutrition and interference on ant colonies. Several results suggest that this dietary effect on patrolling was due primarily to changes in colony size rather than worker behavior. Colonies on lower P:C diets had lower worker mortality and larger final colony sizes. Diet had little effect on per capita patrolling, and worker behavior in performance assays depended more on previous exposure to interference than on diet. Our findings indicate that dietary P:C ratios can influence Argentine ant performance in a competitive environment and suggest a mechanism by which monopolization of carbohydrate-rich resources can help invasive ants displace native ant competitors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)57-64
Number of pages8
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2010


  • Aggression
  • Behavioral dominance
  • Carbohydrates
  • Defense
  • Foraging
  • Invasive species
  • Linepithema humile
  • Macronutrients
  • Metabolic fuel hypothesis (mfh)
  • Nutrient imbalance
  • Protein
  • Resource allocation

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