Harvester ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) discriminate among artificial seeds with different protein contents

TitleHarvester ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) discriminate among artificial seeds with different protein contents
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsWhitford WG, Steinberger Y
Start Page549
Date Published03/2009
ARIS Log Number238124
Keywordsfood choices, Harvester ants, journal, Pogonomyrmex occidentalis, protein

Workers of colonies of the western harvester ant, Pogonomyrmex occidentalis, were recruited to patches of artificial seed of the same caloric value but different protein content. Rates of forager returns with artificial seeds containing five percent protein were nearly twice those of zero percent protein. Differences in foraging rates on artificial seeds of ten and twenty percent protein compared to foraging rates on zero percent protein seeds were not different from the comparison of foraging rates on five percent and zero percent protein seeds. There were no differences in foraging rates on zero percent protein seeds, 0.5 percent and one percent protein seeds. P. occidentalis presented with patches containing equal amounts of zero, five, ten, and twenty percent protein seeds returned equal amounts of each protein content seed type to the colonies. When presented with high quality seed patches in the same location for four successive days, the rates of forager returns increased over time. When seed patch locations were switched, P. occidentalis' rate of return of zero protein content seeds was the same as for the five percent protein seeds at that location the previous day. Seeds with protein content between one and two percent represent a threshold for seed quality that affects the foraging rate of P. occidentalis workers.