The impact of farmland management on the distribution of ant colonies
Elizabeth Jane Margaret Evesham , Dr Elizabeth Jane Margaret Evesham
Kings Education Bournemouth, Department of Biology, UK; Kings Education Bournemouth, Department of Biology, UK
Over the past 30 years, changes in farmland management have had an impact on the size and distribution of Myrmica rubra colonies in field sites near the Dorset Jurassic coastline. With the removal of limestone walls and the clearance of nettles as well as the increase in tourism has come a change in population density; caste number within nests; the interaction of colony members; the sociability of queens as well as the possible coexistence with other ant genera and a change from polygynous societies to monogynous ones. In Myrmica rubra, workers strive to maintain a population size for efficient food distribution and maximum queen/worker interaction. The workers bring queens together perhaps to have more influence over egg production and larval development. Since queens can become aggressive in large social groups, they often segregate from one another, making communication within a colony more difficult to achieve. The effect of “worker” control becomes reduced when there are fewer of them. Workers tend to spread out more, perhaps to compensate for their lack of numbers. However, environmental pressures such as a reduction in food sources and disturbance has brought about smaller colonies and a possible greater “team effect” to ensure the survival of the colony. The work opens up more questions than answers-in particular that of the long-term effect of human activities on the future of our British ant populations.