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Supercoloniality is a social structure displayed by many invasive ant species, but there has been surprisingly little research quantifying the extent to which individual species display traits underlying such social organisation. This study quantifies three traits for the yellow crazy ant, Anoplolepis gracilipes Smith (Hymenoptera: Formicidae): little or no aggression between workers from different nests; the exchange of workers among nests; and resource exchange among nests, as well as supercolony structure arising from patterns of distribution and density of detections. Supercolonies displayed a structural continuum from being small (< 10 ha) and “aggregated” with great continuity among detections through to being large (> 10,000 ha) and “diffuse” with little continuity among detections. Smaller supercolonies had greater ant densities than larger supercolonies. In laboratory trials, no aggression was observed between workers from different nests sourced from different supercolonies, and paired nests merged within 24 hours. Workers lacked nest fidelity by rapidly populating artificial nests containing alien queens. The daily worker turnover rate per nest was estimated to be below 20%. Resources were readily moved among nests, with a resource being detected up to 13 m away from a source within 24 hours, and as far as 32 m after four days. The rate and distance of resource movement increased with increasing worker and nest density. This research has demonstrated that A. gracilipes displays supercoloniality equivalent to that of the well-studied Argentine ant Linepithema humile. Quantification of these traits is required for other supercolonial species to improve our understanding of this social strategy, especially for invasive ants to aid in understanding factors that promote invasion success and to improve management.
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