Microclimatic conditions regulate surface activity in harvester ants Messor barbarus

  • Azcárate F
  • Kovacs E
  • Peco B
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This paper analyses the effect of microclimatic factors (internal soil temperature, surface temperature and surface relative humidity) on surface activity of Messor barbarus harvester ants. We selected 44 colonies in an area of Mediterranean grassland near Madrid (Central Spain), which were monitored for activity between March 1998 and September 1999. Results indicate that microclimatic factors are good predictors of colony activation and intensity of activity. Colonies became active above certain critical values of internal soil temperature and relative humidity. For active colonies, surface temperature was the main regulatory factor for worker departure rate, which peaked at around 25-30C. Worker speed was positively correlated with surface temperature, although the relationship was weaker for large-sized workers. Microclimatic factors were not enough, however, to predict task allocation outside the nest. The explanation for this aspect of ant behavior probably requires the inclusion of biotic factors in the models.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Ant colonies
  • Mediterranean grasslands
  • Relative humidity
  • Task allocation
  • Temperature

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  • Francisco M. Azcárate

  • Eva Kovacs

  • Begoña Peco

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