Use of termites, Reticulitermes virginicus, as a springboard in the invasive success of a predatory ant, Pachycondyla (=Brachyponera) chinensis.
Bednar, D. M.; Silverman, J.
Department of Entomology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695, USA.
Insectes Sociaux 2011 Vol. 58 No. 4 pp. 459-467
Springer, Basel, Switzerland
Language of Text
Invasive ant species have general diet and nest requirements, which facilitate their establishment in novel habitats and their dominance over many native ants. The Asian needle ant, Pachycondyla chinensis, native throughout Australasia was introduced to the southeastern US where it has become established in woodland habitats, nests in close proximity to and consumes subterranean termites (Rhinotermitidae). P. chinensis do not occur in habitats lacking Rhinotermitidae. We suggest that subterranean termites are critical for P. chinensis success in new habitats. We demonstrate that P. chinensis is a general termite feeder, retrieving Reticulitermes virginicus five times more often than other potential prey near P. chinensis colonies. Odors produced by R. virginicus workers, as well as other potential prey, attract P. chinensis. Furthermore, P. chinensis occupy R. virginicus nests in the lab and field and display behaviors that facilitate capture of R. virginicus workers and soldiers. Termites are an abundant, high quality, renewable food supply, in many ways similar to the hemipteran honeydew exploited by most other invasive ant species. We conclude that the behavior of P. chinensis in the presence of termites increases their competitive abilities in natural areas where they have been introduced.