Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Reproductive inhibition among nestmate queens in the invasive Argentine ant.

Abstract

In social species, the presence of several reproductive individuals can generate conflict. In social insects, as queen number increases, individual oviposition rate may decrease because of direct and indirect behavioural and/or chemical interactions. Understanding the factors that mediate differences in queen fecundity should provide insight into the regulation and maintenance of highly polygynous insect societies, such as those of the invasive Argentine ant (Linepithema humile). In this study, we investigated (1) whether differences in the oviposition rates of Argentine ant queens exposed to polygynous conditions could result from interactions among them; (2) whether such differences in fecundity stemmed from differences in worker attention; and (3) whether polygynous conditions affected the cuticular hydrocarbon profiles of queens (CHCs). We found that differences in queen fecundity and CHC profiles observed under polygynous conditions disappeared when queens were exposed to monogynous conditions, suggesting some form of reproductive inhibition may exist when queens cohabit. These differences did not seem to arise from variation in worker attention because more fecund queens were not more attractive to workers. Levels of some CHCs were higher in more fecund queens. These CHCs are associated with greater queen productivity and survival. Our findings indicate that such compounds could be multifunctional queen pheromones.