The movement of polygynous Solenopsis invicta Buren queens from hot environment to a cooler environment was influenced by the queen’s dominance ranking within the colony. This study used a split nest design in which the temperature could be controlled independently in either of the two nest areas that were joined by a sealable plastic tube. Before the study, three queens were marked and ranked by worker preference from a small fire ant colony and introduced into one of these nest areas. After they were acclimatized to the nest, the colony was induced to move by changing the nest temperature. When subjected to increasing heat, the colony left the nest and moved to a cooler location. The results showed that the alpha (most preferred) queen had an advantage over the beta and gamma queens when exposed to hot conditions because the workers demonstrated a definite pattern of behavior of selectively moving the queens from the hot nest to the cooler alternate nest. The behavior of the workers and the queens during the colony’s movement was observed and time to reach safety for each queen was recorded. The workers appeared to have a significant control over the queen’s movement. If the queens were separated from each other and had only one choice of a route to safety, the least dominant (gamma) queen arrived at the new nest location first, because there were fewer workers to interfere with her movement. When the queens were together, the dominant queen arrived at the alternate nest first; dominant queens workers interfered with the movement of the subordinates. However, given a choice between a favorable and harsher nest, the least dominant queen chose equally between the two; whereas, the dominant queen had little choice, her workers chose the favorable nest. We repeated the experiment by subjecting the colony to cold conditions. When the nest was cooled the workers aggregated around each queen and became inactive.
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