Mating frequency and genetic structure of the Argentine ant Linepithema humile


M. J. B. Krieger. *Present address: Department of Entomology, University of Georgia, Athens GA 30602, USA. Fax: +1-706-542-2279; E-mail:


The nest and population genetic structures of the Argentine ant, Linepithema humile were investigated using eight microsatellite loci. Genotypes of the sperm from spermathecae of 87 queens were consistent with all queens being singly inseminated. The probability of a double mating remaining undetected was low (0.012) suggesting that no queens or only a very low proportion mate multiply. The relatedness between the queens and their mates was negative (R = −0.164 ± 0.044) and significantly different to zero (P = 0.020). However, the high negative relatedness value was caused by a significant allele frequency difference between the sexes at a single locus (Lhum-28). When this locus was removed from the analyses, the relatedness was not significantly different from zero (R = 0.013 ± 0.050, P = 0.812). Analysis of 10 nests revealed that the genetic differentiation among nests was weak (FST = 0.003) and not distinguishable from zero (P = 0.468). Similarly, the overall relatedness among nestmate females was not significantly different from zero (R = 0.007 ± 0.018, P = 0.706). These results are consistent with the lack of distinct nest boundaries and the large number of queens per nest in the population studied. Although mating takes place inside the nest, the inbreeding coefficient was close to zero (F = 0.007 ± 0.025, P = 0.786). Overall, these data indicate substantial local gene flow mediated by movement of reproductives among colonies.