Harvester ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) discriminate among artificial seeds with different protein contents

Walter G. Whitford, Yosef Steinberger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Workers of colonies of the western harvester ant, Pogonomyrmex occidentalis, were recruited to patches of artificial seed of the same caloric value but different protein content. Rates of forager returns with artificial seeds containing five percent protein were nearly twice those of zero percent protein. Differences in foraging rates on artificial seeds often and twenty percent protein compared to foraging rates on zero percent protein seeds were not different from the comparison of foraging rates on five percent and zero percent protein seeds. There were no differences in foraging rates on zero percent protein seeds, 0.5 percent and one percent protein seeds. P. occidentalis presented with patches containing equal amounts of zero, five, ten, and twenty percent protein seeds returned equal amounts of each protein content seed type to the colonies. When presented with high quality seed patches in the same location for four successive days, the rates of forager returns increased over time. When seed patch locations were switched, P. occidentalis' rate of return of zero protein content seeds was the same as for the five percent protein seeds at that location the previous day. Seeds with protein content between one and two percent represent a threshold for seed quality that affects the foraging rate of P. occidentalis workers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)549-558
Number of pages10
Issue number2 B
StatePublished - 2009


  • Food choices
  • Harvester ants
  • Pogonomyrmex occidentalis
  • Protein


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