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All Sugars Ain't Sweet: Selection of Particular Mono-, Di- and Trisaccharides by Western Carpenter Ants and European Fire Ants

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Ants select sustained carbohydrate resources, such as aphid honeydew, based on many factors including sugar type, volume and concentration. We tested the hypotheses (H1– H3) that western carpenter ants, Camponotus modoc, seek honeydew excretions from Cinara splendens aphids based solely on the presence of sugar constituents (H1), prefer sugar solutions containing aphid-specific sugars (H2) and preferentially seek sugar solutions with higher sugar content (H3). We further tested the hypothesis (H4) that workers of both Ca. modoc and European fire ants, Myrmica rubra, selectively consume particular mono-, di- and trisaccharides. In choice bioassays with entire ant colonies, sugar constituents in honeydew (but not aphid-specific sugar) as well as sugar concentration affected foraging decisions by Ca. modoc. Both Ca. modoc and M. rubra foragers preferred fructose to other monosaccharides (xylose, glucose) and sucrose to other disaccharides (maltose, melibiose, trehalose). Conversely, when offered a choice between the aphid-specific trisaccharides raffinose and melezitose, Ca. modoc and M. rubra favoured raffinose and melezitose, respectively. Testing the favourite mono-, di- and trisaccharide head-to-head, both ant species favoured sucrose. While both sugar type and sugar concentration are the ultimate cause for consumption by foraging ants, strong recruitment of nest-mates to superior sources is probably the major proximate cause.
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