Ants are excellent at finding new sources of food. They have to be in order to find enough food to feed the whole colony. Worker ants randomly explore a new site until they find something that can be consumed (Deneubourg 1990). A chemical trail is then laid down by the pioneer ant to recruit other ants from the nest to the site of the food (Deneubourg 1990). There are three types of recruitment: tandem recruitment, mass recruitment and group recruitment (Beckers et al. 1989). Both mass and group recruitment uses chemical trails to lead nest mates to food items(Beckers et al. 1989). Chemical trails allow the colony to remember where rewarding food sources are, to choose between locations of different food qualities and even to regulate total foraging activity (Jackson & Ratnieks 2006). The objective of this study was to determine food preference and recruitment time in garden ants. How quickly do ants find rewarding food sources, how long it takes them to recruit more ants and which food sources they prefer?
Materials and Methods
Two experiments were conducted, one using different tasting solutions and one using peanut butter. The peanut butter experiment was done fist so as to recruit ants for the next experiment. 3 petri dishes with peanut butter on slices of bread were placed at 20, 40 and 60 cm’s from an ant nest. The time of discovery, recruitment time and number of ants at each dish was then recorded. The experiment was then repeated. Next, 4 marked petri dishes with bread were placed at equal distances from the ant nest. Sweet, sour, salty and water (control) solutions were separately placed on the pieces of bread with droppers. The amount of ants attracted to each dish was then recorded over a 5 min period. The experiment was repeated a further 2 times. The following results were obtained:
It can be seen that ants are more attracted to the bread with the sweet solution and the control than to the sour or salt solutions, with salt showing the least recruitment (Figure 1). For the peanut butter experiment, the most ants were found at 20 cm’s from the nest during the 30min time interval with the least amount found at 60 cm’s from the nest during the 40 min time interval (Figure 20). The recruitment time for the 40 cm site was the quickest while it was slowest for the 20 cm and 60 cm site (Figure 3).
Ants prefer high-energy foods like sugar solutions and peanut butter, and will recruit others to these food...