PHEROMONAL AND BEHAVIORAL QUEEN CONTROL OVER THE PRODUCTION OF GYNES IN THE ARGENTINE ANT IRIDOMYRMEX-HUMILIS (MAYR)
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Both field observations and laboratory experiments have suggested that queens of I. humilis inhibit the production of new queens (gynes). Using small colony fragments, laboratory experiments were conducted to determine the means by which this inhibition is achieved. The addition of queen corpses to queenless fragments effectively inhibited the production of gynes, suggesting that a queen inhibitory primer pheromone is involved. This inhibitory influence was removed when corpses were washed in pentane, lending further support to the pheromonal hypothesis. Adult gynes (winged virgin queens) were not inhibitory, whereas young dealated mated queens of the same age were, suggesting that only inseminated queens produce the pheromone. Daily addition of eggs to queenless units did not appear to have a strong inhibitory influence, indicating that the lower worker/larva ratios associated with the presence of an egg-laying queen in such colony fragments does not greatly influence the production of sexuals. Pheromonal inhibition of gyne development appears to be achieved mainly by preventing the sexualization of bipotent female larvae, probably by affecting the brood-rearing behavior of workers. In addition, queens may also cause the execution of female larvae after they have become sexualized. In nearly all cases, the addition of a living queen to previously queenless units containing gyne larvae caused workers to execute one or more of these larvae within 24 h. In some cases queens were also seen attacking gyne larvae. The addition of queen corpses resulted in the execution of gyne larvae, suggesting that a queen pheromone mediates, at least in part, this execution behavior of workers. These results show that I. humilis queens exert control over the production of gynes in two ways: (1) by preventing the sexualization of female larvae and (2) by killing female larvae after they have become sexualized. A queen primer pheromone appears to be involved in both processes. Queen behavior also plays a role, at least in the execution of gyne larvae. This queen control over the production of gynes, probably mostly pheromonal, appears to operate strongly in the field where gynes are produced only in spring just after a sharp drop in the inhibitory queen influence due to the massive execution of queens by the workers. 1991 Springer-Verlag.
BEHAVIORAL ECOLOGY AND SOCIOBIOLOGY
author list (cited authors)
VARGO, E. L., & PASSERA, L.
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