Behaviour 2019
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Integrating Individual and Colony-Level Macronutrient Regulation in Ants with micro-RFID Tracking
Andrew T. Burchill, Theodore P. Pavlic, Stephen C. Pratt. Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, United States

Even though only a small fraction of workers in a social insect colony are foragers, they must supply their nestmates with an appropriate balance of nutrients at both the collective and individual levels. To better understand how foragers respond to their colony's nutritional status, we tracked the foraging choices of whole colonies of the Neotropical ant Ectatomma ruidum using a custom, micro-RFID tracking system.
All the ants in three lab colonies were marked with individual micro-RFID tags and constantly monitored as they gathered either high-carbohydrate or high-protein food sources. Over the month-long experiment, we can disentangle whether foragers specialized on food type or food location, two aspects confounded in previous literature. Additionally, we are examining the oft-repeated but seldom-tested hypothesis that offloading time for newly acquired food is used as a proxy for colony nutritional status. This high-resolution dataset of individual behavioral trajectories allows us to see how individual forager specialization and elitism change over time.