Family before work: task reversion in workers of the red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta in the presence of brood.
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Among social insects, task allocation within its group members remains as one of the paramount pillars of social functionality. Division of labor in many eusocial insects is maintained by behavioral flexibility that can shift according to the needs of the colony they reside in. Workers typically, over time as they age, shift from intranidal nurses to extranidal foragers. If the needs of the colony change, either from the needs of the adults or the brood therein, workers shift their behavior in order to compensate for the need of a particular task to be done. This shift, either accelerating towards a behavior associated with an older worker, or regressing back into the nest, is not clearly understood in social insects outside of honeybees. In this study, evaluated how brood type affected the red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta, worker task reversion and acceleration. Through observation of worker behaviors performed over multiple time-points per day, we discovered that worker task reversion and acceleration does occur within this ant species. Furthermore, the type of brood influenced the rate at which this occurred, with larvae having the strongest effect of all types. Finally, there was a propensity for workers to maintain their new behavior throughout the experiment. This study shows that the needs of brood within a social insect colony can influence the behavior workers perform, reversing the age polyethism that is common among social insect species.