Hydrocarbons in the ant Lasius niger: from the cuticle to the nest and home range marking

J Chem Ecol. 2009 Aug;35(8):913-21. doi: 10.1007/s10886-009-9669-6. Epub 2009 Jul 25.


The cuticular hydrocarbons (CHCs) of the ant Lasius niger are described. We observe a high local colony specificity of the body cuticular profile as predicted for a monogynous and multicolonial species. The CHCs show a low geographical variation among different locations in France. The CHCs on the legs also are colony specific, but their relative quantities are slightly different from those on the main body. For the first time, we demonstrate that the inner walls of the ant nest are coated with the same hydrocarbons as those found on the cuticle but in different proportions. The high amount of inner-nest marking and its lack of colony-specificity may explain why alien ants are not rejected once they succeed in entering the nest. The cuticular hydrocarbons also are deposited in front of the nest entrance and on the foraging arena, with a progressive increase in n-alkanes relative amounts. Chemical marks laid over the substrate are colony specific only when we consider methyl-branched alkanes. Our data confirm that these "footprint hydrocarbons" are probably deposited passively by the contact of ant tarsae with the substrate. These results suggest that the CHCs chemical profiles used by ants in colony recognition are much more complex than a single template: ants have to learn and memorize odors that vary depending on their context of perception.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ants / physiology*
  • Discriminant Analysis
  • Homing Behavior
  • Hydrocarbons / chemistry
  • Hydrocarbons / metabolism*
  • Nesting Behavior


  • Hydrocarbons