Article: article from journal or magazin.
Ant queens (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) are attracted to fungal pathogens during the initial stage of colony founding
Ant queens that attempt to disperse and found new colonies independently face high mortality risks. The exposure of queens to soil entomopathogens during claustral colony founding may be particularly harmful, as founding queens lack the protection conferred by mature colonies. Here, we tested the hypotheses that founding queens (I) detect and avoid nest sites that are contaminated by fungal pathogens, and (II) tend to associate with other queens to benefit from social immunity when nest sites are contaminated. Surprisingly, in nest choice assays, young Formica selysi BONDROIT, 1918 queens had an initial preference for nest sites contaminated by two common soil entomopathogenic fungi, Beauveria bassiana and Metarhizium brunneum. Founding queens showed a similar preference for the related but non-entomopathogenic fungus Fusarium graminearum. In contrast, founding queens had no significant preference for the more distantly related nonentomopathogenic fungus Petromyces alliaceus, nor for heat-killed spores of B. bassiana. Finally, founding queens did not increase the rate of queen association in presence of B. bassiana. The surprising preference of founding queens for nest sites contaminated by live entomopathogenic fungi suggests that parasites manipulate their hosts or that the presence of specific fungi is a cue associated with suitable nesting sites.
Colony founding, social immunity, pathogen avoidance, pleometrosis
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