The presence of conifer resin decreases the use of the immune system in wood ants
Article first published online: 22 FEB 2008
© 2008 The Authors Journal compilation © 2008 The Royal Entomological Society
Volume 33, Issue 3, pages 408–412, June 2008
How to Cite
CASTELLA, G., CHAPUISAT, M., MORET, Y. and CHRISTE, P. (2008), The presence of conifer resin decreases the use of the immune system in wood ants. Ecological Entomology, 33: 408–412. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2311.2007.00983.x
- Issue published online: 22 FEB 2008
- Article first published online: 22 FEB 2008
- Accepted 10 December 2007First published online 22 February 2008
- Antibacterial activity;
- Formica paralugubris;
- lytic activity;
- plant secondary metabolites;
Abstract 1. Wood ants (Formica paralugubris) incorporate large amounts of solidified conifer resin into their nest, which reduces the density of many bacteria and fungi and protects the ants against some detrimental micro-organisms. By inducing an environment unfavourable to pathogens, the presence of resin may allow workers to reduce the use of their immune system.
2. The present study tested the hypothesis that the presence of resin decreases the immune activity of wood ants. Specifically, three components of the humoral immune defences of workers kept in resin-rich and resin-free experimental nests (antibacterial, lytic, and prophenoloxidase activities) were compared.
3. The presence of resin was associated with reduced bacterial and fungal densities in nest material and with a small decrease in worker antibacterial and lytic activities. The prophenoloxidase activity was very low in all workers and was not affected by the presence of resin.
4. These results suggest that collective medication with resin reduces pathogen pressure, which in turn decreases the use of the inducible part of the immune system. More generally, the use of plant secondary compounds might be an efficient and economical way to fight pathogens.