Colony size and brood investment of Myrmica rubra ant colonies in habitats invaded by goldenrods

Insectes Soc. 2018;65(2):275-280. doi: 10.1007/s00040-018-0612-0. Epub 2018 Feb 26.


Ant richness and abundance are negatively affected by the invasion of alien goldenrods (Solidago sp.). However, little is known about the mechanisms standing behind the impact of the invaders on ant life history, such as colony investments in growth and reproduction. We examined this problem of the investments of Myrmica rubra ant colonies living in different grasslands invaded and non-invaded by goldenrods. Altogether, 47 colonies were analysed; and for each colony, we calculated the number of queens, workers and the production of young workers, gynes, and males. We found that colonies from invaded meadows are smaller in size, but have a similar number of adult queens compared to colonies from non-invaded sites. We also found different brood investments among colonies from invaded and non-invaded meadows-colonies from non-invaded meadows produce more young workers and invest more in growth, whereas colonies from invaded meadows invest more in reproduction through higher gyne production. Male production was at a similar level in colonies from both habitat types. The observed patterns may be explained by the effect of various environmental factors occurring in both grassland types, such as stress in changed habitats, higher competition among gynes in non-invaded grasslands, or finally, by the adaptive colony-level response of ants to stress. The higher production of gynes observed in the invaded grasslands may support dispersal and enhance the probability of establishing a colony in a more favourable location.

Keywords: Colony growth; Life-history traits; Reproduction; Social insects; Solidago.