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When are ant-attractant devices a worthwhile investment? Vicia faba extrafloral nectaries and Lasius niger ants

Oliver, T.H. , Cook, J.M. and Leather, S.R. (2007) When are ant-attractant devices a worthwhile investment? Vicia faba extrafloral nectaries and Lasius niger ants. Population Ecology, 49 (3). pp. 265-273. ISSN 1438-3896

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1007/s10144-007-0044-6


Most studies aiming to determine the beneficial effect of ants on plants simply consider the effects of the presence or exclusion of ants on plant yield. This approach is often inadequate, however, as ants interact with both non-tended herbivores and tended Homoptera. Moreover, the interaction with these groups of organisms is dependent on ant density, and these functional relationships are likely to be non-linear. A model is presented here that segregates plant herbivores into two categories depending on the sign of their numerical response to ants (myrmecophiles increase with ants, non-tended herbivores decline). The changes in these two components of herbivores with increasing ant density and the resulting implications for ant-plant mutualisms are considered. It emerges that a wide range of ant densities needs to be considered as the interaction sign (mutualism or parasitism) and strength is likely to change with ant density. The model is used to interpret the results of an experimental study that varied levels of Aphis fabae infestation and Lasius niger ant attendance on Vicia faba bean plants. Increasing ant density consistently reduced plant fitness and thus, in this location, the interaction between the ants and the plant can be considered parasitic. In the Vicia faba system, these costs of ants are unlikely to be offset by other beneficial agents (e.g., parasitoids), which also visit extrafloral nectaries.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Biological Sciences
ID Code:10053
Uncontrolled Keywords:Aphis fabae , Herbivory , Mutualism , Plant insect interactions , Plant stress

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