Factors triggering queen executions in the Argentine ant.
Competition among queens in polygynous societies may result in queen executions or conflicts over personal reproduction. Understanding the factors that mediate the executions of ant queens should provide insight into how queen numbers are regulated in polygynous insect societies. The Argentine ant is a widespread invasive species that displays secondary polygyny, and workers execute 90% of their nestmate queens each spring. In this study, we investigated: (1) whether ambient temperature, queen number, and protein deprivation have an effect on queen executions and (2) whether workers select the queens slated for execution based on their cuticular hydrocarbon (CHC) profiles. We found that the percentage of queens executed was positively correlated with temperature and queen number but that protein deprivation did not play a role. As for queen fate, the levels of some CHCs were higher in surviving queens. One of these CHCs is associated with queen productivity (i.e egg-laying rate and ovarian index) suggesting that workers execute the least productive queens. Our findings suggest that chemical cues related to fertility signaling may mediate queen executions in Argentine ants.