These authors contributed equally to this study.
Aphid–ant mutualism: how honeydew sugars influence the behaviour of ant scouts
Version of Record online: 17 MAY 2010
© 2010 The Authors. Journal compilation © 2010 The Royal Entomological Society
Volume 35, Issue 2, pages 168–174, June 2010
How to Cite
DETRAIN, C., VERHEGGEN, F. J., DIEZ, L., WATHELET, B. and HAUBRUGE, E. (2010), Aphid–ant mutualism: how honeydew sugars influence the behaviour of ant scouts. Physiological Entomology, 35: 168–174. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-3032.2010.00730.x
- Issue online: 17 MAY 2010
- Version of Record online: 17 MAY 2010
- Accepted 6 March 2010
- Aphis fabae;
- feeding preference;
- honeydew sugars;
- Lasius niger;
- trail recruitment
Honeydew is the keystone on which ant–aphid mutualism is built. The present study investigates how each sugar identified in Aphis fabae Scopoli honeydew acts upon the feeding and the laying of a recruitment trail by scouts of the aphid-tending ant Lasius niger Linnaeus, and thus may enhance collective exploitation by the ant mutualists. The feeding preferences shown by L. niger for honeydew sugars are: melezitose = sucrose = raffinose > glucose = fructose > maltose = trehalose = melibiose = xylose. Although feeding is a prerequisite to the launching of trail recruitment, the reverse is not necessarily true: not all ingested sugar solutions elicit a trail-laying behaviour among fed scouts. Trail mark laying is only triggered by raffinose, sucrose or melezitose, with the latter sugar being specific to honeydew. By comparing gustatory and recruitment responses of ant foragers to sugar food sources, the present study clarifies the role of honeydew composition both as a source of energy and as a mediator in ant–aphid interactions. Lasius niger feeding preferences can be related to the physiological suitability of each sugar (i.e. their detection by gustatory receptors as well as their ability to be digested and converted into energy). Regarding recruitment, the aphid-synthesized oligosaccharide (melezitose) could be used by ant scouts as a cue indicative of a long-lasting productive resource that is worthy of collective exploitation and defence against competitors or aphid predators.