Brood care patterns and task allocation of the polygynous imported red fire ant Solenopsis invicta
Solenopsis invicta's preferred habitat, morphology, physiology, and behavior have been extensively studied in North America. One area, which has been overlooked in large part due to the difficulty of observation, is contact between workers within the nest and transport of brood within the subterranean nest, using a polygyne colony. The purpose was to improve upon previous methods of lab rearing by keeping the colony in a nest closer a natural state, where viewing and filming the subterranean areas is possible. Also, frequency of worker castes in various areas of the nest, and experiments in brood transport and care by workers was examined. Study used a laboratory-constructed hydrostone plaster nest, with subterranean tunnels and chambers visible, and a surface area for free foraging. Tunnel parameters based on metal casts of S. invicta nests done by W. Tschinkel. Ants consumed a diet consisting of sucrose solution and Acheta domestica. Results show that nest construction was a success. There was a significant difference in number of workers carrying brood along a vertical shaft away from surface as well as toward surface, across the five time intervals from time of disturbance (p<.0001). The distribution of different worker morph sizes is significantly different across the three nest area types studied, vertical tunnels, horizontal tunnels, and brood chambers (p<.0001). Rate of traffic was significantly different between the two flow directions. (p<.0001) The relevance of these results is unclear, but there is a clear organization to brood care patterns which is significant and should be further investigated.