Rapid Worker Recruitment in Aphaenogaster Ants

In this short observation a single worker drags a yellow jacket wasp (Vespula spp.) until a point close to the nest and then switches to a different task. She leaves to recruit more workers as a scout. Until the first recruits arrive two other workers tend the prey. The location of the prey must have been close to the nest because a third worker joins them 55 seconds after the scout leaves. Based on the time stamp of the unedited footage, 1 minutes 44 seconds after the scout leaves the number of workers around the prey already reached four.

The most striking event is the flood of recruits entering into the scene from the upper right corner of the screen one by one. The worker numbers reached 26 before the prey is moved towards the nest. During this time four ants returned back to nest perhaps to recruit more workers. Scientist studying ants call this behavior “task allocation”.

How does a living system with no central control function? How do they partition tasks? Do worker ants do the same job all their lives or do they switch tasks? What is the collective decision making process during times of stress? How does information flow inside and outside the nest? Do worker ants search food with an innate hardwired behavioral pattern? Do they show individual variations in their behavior? How does a colony manage it’s resources? These are just a few curious questions among the many for generating hypothesis. These hypothesis are being tested by scientists who make detailed observations and design experiments. Results help us build a theory on self-organizing systems.

Aphaenogaster lamellidens is a common ant species in oak-hickory forests, upland hardwood forests, dry to mesic forests, bottomland hardwood forests, mixed pine-hardwood forests, and other woodland habitats. The opening scene should give an idea about the habitat type where these ants live.

Aphaenogaster lamellidens nests in soil, under rocks, and in or under well-decomposed wood. Here this colony appeared to be nesting in soil at the base of an oak tree (Quercus spp.). Their colonies are often large with thousands of workers. It is considered to be a generalized predator. It feeds on arthropods. It is regularly observed attacking live insects and even centipedes.

This observation was recorded on August 9th 2014, Georgia State Botanical Garden, Athens, GA, USA and is registered in iNaturalist.org.



  1. Gina Cali says:

    Can you provide the original source for this documentary Rapid Worker Recruitment in the Ant Aphaenogaster lamellidens

    I am looking for high definition video of Aphaenogaster ants for use in a science documentary about fungi.

Leave a Comment


shared on wplocker.com