|VANDER MEER, ROBERT|
|Alonso, Leeanne - XERCES SOCIETY|
Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: April 6, 1998
Publication Date: N/A
Technical Abstract: We suggest a mechanism for the initiation of polygyny that involves adoption of NMQs into queenless worker groups. Insight into the mechanism of polygyne formation in fire ants came from the discovery that highly aggressive and territorial fire ant workers from monogyne colonies quickly become less aggressive toward conspecifics after they lose their queen. In addition, these queenless worker groups readily fuse to form new colony groups that contain several matrilines and patrilines, as are found in polygyne colonies. Queenless polygyne and monogyne colony workers, as well as fused monogyne worker groups adopt newly mated fire ant queens (normally executed by workers with queens). We propose that the probability for development of polygyne populations increases with the formation of population-wide queenless worker groups. Chemical treatment of soil or fire ant toxic baits could lead to the population-wide formation of queenless worker groups, providing the conditions for the development of a polygyne population. We used toxic baits to test our working hypothesis that formation of multiple queenless worker groups would promote the development of polygyny within a monogyne population in the field. Of five replicate monogyne field plots treated with bait toxicant (hydramethylnon) four developed patches of polygyne colonies within 54 weeks after treatment, whereas all controls maintained monogyne status. This is the first time that an association has been demonstrated between bait treatment and the development of polygyne fire ant colonies.