Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Behavioral responses to numerical differences when two invasive ants meet: the case of Lasius neglectus and Linepithema humile.

Abstract

Two of the world's most invasive ants, Linepithema humile and Lasius neglectus, are destined to overlap in range as they continue to spread throughout Europe. Although L. humile arrived first, and is therefore more numerically abundant, L. neglectus is the more behaviorally dominant of the two. We performed lab trials to determine whether L. humile could use numerical abundance to overcome the behavioral dominance of L. neglectus and whether the ants' behavioral patterns shifted when the species co-occurred. We found that L. neglectus was more aggressive when less abundant, whereas the opposite was true of L. humile. When L. neglectus was outnumbered, it employed aggressive behaviors, such as biting or chemical attacks, more frequently than L. humile; it also utilized a behavioral sequence that included mandible opening and biting. Our results for these species support the hypothesis that species modulate their behavior towards competitors, which facilitates the understanding of how multiple invasive ant species can co-occur in a given area. Moreover, our study shows that the co-occurrence of invasive species could result from the use of two strategies: (1) the Bourgeois strategy, in which aggressiveness changes based on numerical dominance and (2) the dear-enemy strategy, in which aggressiveness is reduced when competitors co-occur. Since these strategies may lead to territory partitioning, we suggest that the behavioral flexibility displayed by both species when they overlap may allow local co-occurrence and increase their likelihood of co-occurrence during their range expansion in Europe, which could have a negative cumulative impact on invaded areas.