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The feeding habits of the wood-ant, Formica rufa (Hymenoptera: Formicidae), in limestone woodland in north-west England

, : The feeding habits of the wood-ant, Formica rufa (Hymenoptera: Formicidae), in limestone woodland in north-west England. Journal of Animal Ecology, 492: 417-433

Food habits of F. rufa L. in a limestone woodland in north Lancashire are studied. Use is made of a semi-automatic collecting device which solves some of the problems inherent in manual sampling. The main food items are aphids (mainly Drepanosiphum platanoides Schr.), Diptera (mainly Bibionidae), Lepidoptera larvae (mainly Operophtera brumata L.) and honeydew. Aphids, Lepidoptera larvae and honeydew are brought in in greatest quantities in spring and early summer, Diptera throughout the year. Differences in food income at 2 study sites are discussed in relation to differences between the 2 sites. Many ants are involved in the collection of building material or are apparently unladen. Dry weight studies show honeydew to be the most important food in these terms. Honeydew was also the most important food in terms of energy content. Up to 15,200 kJ/5 min of honeydew are carried in on a single trial. The maximum intake of solid food on the same trial was 13,287 kJ/5 min. F. rufa utilizes particular species of trees at different times of year. Sycamore is important in the early season, with scots pine and oak increasing in importance in summer and autumn. This may be related to the food being obtained from these species. Previous data on wood-ant feeding habits and its more general applications in terms of work done on food selection in birds are discussed. The importance of assessing the impact of large ant colonies on the ecosystem via studies of their food income, etc., is stressed.


DOI: 10.2307/4255

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