The interaction of food distribution and the caste composition of an ant colony (Myrmica rubra L.)


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    Clayesmore School, Iwerne Minster, Blandford Forum, Dorset DT11 8LL


The distribution of food between members of a Myrmica rubra L. Society was investigated by varying the ratios of queens, workers and medium-sized larvae. Observations revealed patterns in colony behaviour which could be of importance in a polygyne system.

Queens had little effect upon the rate of food transmission, but the worker/larva ratio was of significance. Many workers effectively fed all larvae present in a colony, but a small number of workers fed only a few. If larvae and/or queens were in abundance, the workers were partly deprived of access to them. Competition between the queens and larvae for food and worker attention occurred when their numbers were high. In this situation, queens fed themselves while the workers cared for the larvae. The significance of overcrowding, not only upon the administration of food, but upon the queen effect acting on the workers to stimulate or inhibit worker egg-laying and brood-rearing, is discussed.