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Role of Propagule Size in the Success of Incipient Colonies of the Invasive Argentine Ant

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Factors that contribute to the successful establishment of invasive species are often poorly understood. Propagule size is considered a key determinant of establishment success, but experimental tests of its importance are rare. We used experimental colonies of the invasive Argentine ant (  Linepithema humile) that differed both in worker and queen number to test how these attributes influence the survivorship and growth of incipient colonies. All propagules without workers experienced queen mortality, in contrast to only 6% of propagules with workers. In small propagules (10–1,000 workers), brood production increased with worker number but not queen number. In contrast, per capita measures of colony growth decreased with worker number over these colony sizes. In larger propagules ( 1,000–11,000 workers), brood production also increased with increasing worker number, but per capita brood production appeared independent of colony size. Our results suggest that queens need workers to establish successfully but that propagules with as few as 10 workers can grow quickly. Given the requirements for propagule success in Argentine ants, it is not surprising how easily they spread via human commerce.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Biology, 0116, University of California at San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive,La Jolla, CA 92093–0116, U.S.A.

Publication date: April 1, 2000

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