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Asian Myrmecology, Volume 11, e011003, pages 1-10, online first (online version of paper published before print issue)

Effect of caffeine and γ-aminobutyric acid on preference for sugar solutions in two ant species

NATALIA E. L. MADSEN AND JOACHIM OFFENBERG*

Department of Bioscience, Aarhus University, Vejlsøvej 25, DK-8600, Silkeborg, Denmark

Article first published online 31/December/2019

DOI: 10.20362/am.011003

Asian Myrmecology 10: e011003 (1-10)

© N. E. L. Madsen and J. Offenberg

Abstract: Artificial sugar solutions can be used to disrupt the mutualism between aphids and ants. This provides natural enemies with increased access to aphid populations, thus enhancing biocontrol of hemipteran pests. However, research suggests that artificial solutions should be tailored to specific species in order to maximize the desired result. In this study, we test the effect of an alkaloid, caffeine, and a non-protein amino acid, γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA), on preference for sucrose solutions in two ant species, Lasius niger and Oecophylla smaragdina. These secondary metabolites have been shown to have attractive capabilities in other species of insects, who favor nectars from plants containing these compounds. In our first experiment, both species significantly preferred solutions containing GABA over sucrose-only controls, albeit L. niger favored higher concentrations of the amino acid. Caffeine did not significantly increase preference for sugar solutions in either of the tested species, and ants significantly dispreferred the highest concentration of caffeine offered. When the two metabolites were tested simultaneously against sucrose only, L. niger fed equally from all solutions, while O. smaragdina dispreferred caffeine. Thus, while GABA seems to be a promising ant attractant, caffeine is not an adequate choice, at least at the concentrations tested in this experiment.

Keywords: Lasius niger, Oecophylla smaragdina, GABA, secondary metabolites, Formicidae, alkaloid

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