|Long-range regulation of worker reproduction in the arboreal, polydomous Weaver Ant, Oecophylla smaragdina|
|Jessica Ebie1, Jocelyn Millar2, Simon Robson3,4, Jürgen Liebig1, Bert Hölldobler1,5. 1Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, United States; 2University of California, Riverside, CA, United States; 3The University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia; 4Central Queensland University, Townsville, QLD, Australia; 5Universität Würzburg, Würzburg, , Germany
Although workers in many ant species are capable of producing their own male offspring, they usually rear the queen's offspring instead. This behavior requires that workers detect the presence of a fertile queen within the colony. In polydomous species, where the colony is spread across multiple unconnected nests, the presence of the queen must be communicated across extended distances to workers that may not come in contact with the queen for long periods of time. Colonies of the arboreal Weaver Ant, Oecophylla smaragdina, are an extreme example of polydomy, with a single colony able to span multiple trees, resulting in a large portion of nest workers being physically isolated from the queen for extended periods of time. Workers experimentally isolated from the queen in laboratory nests will lay viable eggs which develop into males; however, workers kept with a queen do not lay viable eggs. In laboratory experiments, we investigated the behavioral and chemical mechanisms that regulate worker fertility in satellite nests separated from the queen in an attempt to understand how the queen's fertility is reliably signaled across relatively long distances for extended periods of time.