A Comparative Study of Maternal Care by Virgins, Females and Males, in the Fire Ant, Solenopsis invicta
Alexis K Masnjak, Deby Cassill . University of South Florida , Saint Petersburg, Fl, United States

Complex social behaviors have been well described among the sterile workers of the social Hymenoptera: honeybees, ants and wasps. Maternal care has been previously described in newly mated queens and sterile daughters of the red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta. However, maternal care has not been described in either S. invicta virgin queens or virgin males.  The purpose of this study was to compare maternal care of larvae by the fertile virgins of the red imported fire ant. Virgin queens (n= 12) and virgin males (n=11) were collected in Pinellas County, Florida during the Spring of 2017. Each individual was placed in a test tube chamber with 20-30 larvae. Their behaviors were recorded for six hours using VHS video-technology.  Self-grooming was the most frequently observed behavior in queens and males (37%).  Brood care  was observed in 3/12 queens (11%). Brood care was not observed in males (0/11).  In summary, the type and frequency of behaviors differed for virgins based on gender. Virgin queens displayed more diverse behaviors including maternal care. The behaviors of virgin males were limited to personal care and roaming.