Invasive ant species can have dramatic impacts on native ants, through direct predation and by usurping common resources. Most invasive ants and many native ants use honeydew, produced by phloem-sucking hemipterans. Because colonies of invasive ants can become very large after establishment, these ants may facilitate greater hemipteran trophobiont population growth compared with their sympatric native ant counterparts. We examined the population growth of an aphid mutualist, Aphis gossypii, and a nonmutualist, Myzus persicae, exposed to two Dolichoderine ants, Linepithema humile, a globally widespread invasive species, and Tapinoma sessile, a widespread co-occurring native ant, in North America in an enemy-free laboratory study. L.humile worker foraging activity was at least twice that of T.sessile, and populations of the myrmecophile, A. gossypii, were greater when exposed to L. humile than T.sessile, possibly caused, in part, by more frequent encounters with L. humile. L. humile ignored M. persicae when A.gossypii was absent, whereas T.sessile preyed on it. Both ant species preyed on M. persicae when A. gossypii was also present. This suggested that both ants may assess nutritional gains from aphid species (i.e., honeydew versus body tissue), eliminating less productive aphids competing for host plant space. Through their impact on populations of hemipteran mutualists, we suggest that colonies of L.humile and perhaps other invasive ants may acquire more honeydew than native ants, thereby fueling colony growth that leads to numerical dominance and widespread success in introduced environments.
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