Eur. J. Entomol. 110 (2): 231-239, 2013 | 10.14411/eje.2013.033

Trophobiosis in the arboricolous ant Liometopum microcephalum (Hymenoptera: Formicidae: Dolichoderinae)

Jiří SCHLAGHAMERSKÝ1, Jan KA©PAR1, Lenka PETRÁKOVÁ1, Vladimír ©USTR2
1 Masaryk University, Faculty of Science, Department of Botany and Zoology, Kotlářská 2, 611 37 Brno, Czech Republic; e-mail: jiris@sci.muni.cz
2 Biology Centre of the ASCR, Institute of Soil Biology, Na Sádkách 7, 370 05 České Budějovice, Czech Republic; e-mail: sustr@upb.cas.cz

The arboricolous dolichoderine ant Liometopum microcephalum (Panzer, 1798) is considered to be mainly predatory, although there are some reports of it tending aphids. The main objective of the present study was to confirm that this ant has a trophobiotic relationship with aphids and assess seasonal differences in its utilization of honeydew. We hypothesized that the worker ants on trees where they have their nest (nest tree) and trees where they are foraging (foraging trees) should differ in gaster mass and sugar content depending on their direction of movement, and that both should be highest in spring. From spring to summer 2009, ascending and descending workers were collected from nest and foraging trees at a locality in South Moravia, Czech Republic. Mass of their gasters and their content of total and reducing sugars were measured using chemical (photometric) methods. Differences in gaster mass confirmed the flow of liquid food from foraging to nest trees, but there were no significant between-month differences. Contents of total and reducing sugars were positively correlated with gaster mass. The gasters of workers descending from foraging trees contained significantly more reducing sugars than those of workers descending or ascending nest trees. The content of reducing sugars was lowest at the beginning of the ants' activity period in April and highest in June, with a non-significant drop in July. Results for total sugars were similar, with the decrease in July being significant. The concentration of sugars in the gasters of workers ascending and descending nest trees did not differ significantly but the absolute content of total sugars was higher in the gasters of ascending ants. Results from foraging trees confirmed that the ants collected the honeydew from these trees. Possible reasons for the ambigous results for nest trees are discussed. We conclude that trophobiosis is an important component of the nutritional biology of L. microcephalum.

Keywords: Hymenoptera, Formicidae, Dolichoderinae, Liometopum, arboricolous, ants, trophobiosis, foraging, honeydew

Received: February 28, 2011; Accepted: October 23, 2012; Published: April 11, 2013

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