DesplandLessard2022

Reference

Despland, E., Lessard, J.-P. (2022) Social predation by ants as a mortality source for an arboreal gregarious forest pest. Basic and Applied Ecology, 59:82-91. (URL )

Abstract

Biocontrol of caterpillars by ants is highly variable, and we investigate how the strength of the trophic relationship between ants and an important outbreaking forest pest depends on phenological synchrony and on social foraging. We test the hypothesis that early spring foraging by ants, coupled with eusocial recruitment behavior, could undermine the caterpillar's strategies to achieve either enemy-free space or predator satiation.We use a series of field surveys and experiments in trembling aspen stands (Populus tremuloides) in the boreal forest of eastern Canada to assess the role of ants in early-instar mortality of the outbreaking, gregarious forest tent caterpillar (Malacosoma disstria). We also investigate individual-level mechanisms related to phenology and social behavior that underlie the effectiveness of ants as biocontrol on caterpillars. Our results show that ants climb trees early in the spring and harvest young forest tent caterpillars, suggesting that early phenology does not provide an entirely enemy-free space for caterpillars. Our findings further show that recruitment-based social foraging enables ants to deplete groups of gregarious prey, suggesting that these eusocial insects are particularly effective at generating predation pressure on gregarious herbivores since they do not satiate easily. Finally, a manipulative predator exclusion experiment confirms that ant predation is a significant mortality source for early-instar forest tent caterpillars. Taken together, these results suggest that phenology and sociality could modulate the role of ants as effective caterpillar predators and thus showcase the importance of considering natural history and behavioral traits when studying trophic interactions and their role in population dynamics.

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@ARTICLE { DesplandLessard2022,
    AUTHOR = { Despland, E. and Lessard, J.-P. },
    JOURNAL = { Basic and Applied Ecology },
    TITLE = { Social predation by ants as a mortality source for an arboreal gregarious forest pest },
    YEAR = { 2022 },
    ISSN = { 1439-1791 },
    PAGES = { 82-91 },
    VOLUME = { 59 },
    ABSTRACT = { Biocontrol of caterpillars by ants is highly variable, and we investigate how the strength of the trophic relationship between ants and an important outbreaking forest pest depends on phenological synchrony and on social foraging. We test the hypothesis that early spring foraging by ants, coupled with eusocial recruitment behavior, could undermine the caterpillar's strategies to achieve either enemy-free space or predator satiation.We use a series of field surveys and experiments in trembling aspen stands (Populus tremuloides) in the boreal forest of eastern Canada to assess the role of ants in early-instar mortality of the outbreaking, gregarious forest tent caterpillar (Malacosoma disstria). We also investigate individual-level mechanisms related to phenology and social behavior that underlie the effectiveness of ants as biocontrol on caterpillars. Our results show that ants climb trees early in the spring and harvest young forest tent caterpillars, suggesting that early phenology does not provide an entirely enemy-free space for caterpillars. Our findings further show that recruitment-based social foraging enables ants to deplete groups of gregarious prey, suggesting that these eusocial insects are particularly effective at generating predation pressure on gregarious herbivores since they do not satiate easily. Finally, a manipulative predator exclusion experiment confirms that ant predation is a significant mortality source for early-instar forest tent caterpillars. Taken together, these results suggest that phenology and sociality could modulate the role of ants as effective caterpillar predators and thus showcase the importance of considering natural history and behavioral traits when studying trophic interactions and their role in population dynamics. },
    DOI = { https://doi.org/10.1016/j.baae.2022.01.001 },
    KEYWORDS = { Outbreak, Tri-trophic interactions, Early-spring feeders, Biocontrol, boreal },
    URL = { https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1439179122000019 },
}

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