Evol Ecol Res 7: 407-420 (2005)     Full PDF if your library subscribes.

Quantifying ant foraging preferences in the field using a slow-flow nectar pump

Matthew T. Rutter *

Department of Biology, Duke University, Durham, NC 27707, USA

Address all correspondence to Matthew T. Rutter, Department of Biology, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742, USA.
e-mail: rutter@wam.umd.edu


Question: What aspects of nectar production affect ant recruitment in natural conditions?

Organisms: The most common ant species were Formica pergandei, Monomorium minimum and Pheidole bicarinata.

Field site: Old field in Duke Forest, Durham, North Carolina.

Method: I developed a slow-flow pump that allows for experimental manipulation of nectar characteristics, including flow rate, within a biologically reasonable range. This pump can be used in field conditions. I assayed ant preferences for sugar concentration, nectar flow rate, number of nectaries per plant, and spatial location of the nectar sources.

Conclusions: Ant nectar preferences varied across species. Formica pergandei recruitment changed when sugar concentration, flow rate and the number of nectaries did. However, the direction of change depended on the position of the nectar sources. Monomorium minimum and P. bicarinata recruitment patterns changed only if nectar flow rate changed. Monomorium minimum also preferred certain locations. Pheidole bicarinata consistently preferred intermediate nectar flow rates.

Keywords: ant–plant interactions, diet preferences, foraging, nectar.

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