The Effect of Age and Social Environment on Dealation in Solenopsis invicta (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) Female Alates

  • S. N. Burns
  • R. K. Van der Meer
  • P. E. A. Teal


The fire ant (Solenopsis invicta Buren) queen produces a primer pheromone that prevents dealation (wing removal) of cohabiting female alates presumably by suppressing endogenous titers of juvenile hormone (JH). Alates are released from the effects of this primer pheromone when they are separated from the queen by physical disturbance, queen death, or mating flights. We investigated whether maturity influences the time at which female alates shed their wings. Results indicated that dealation rates were not different for newly-eclosed (sexually immature) or sexually mature alates. The dealation inhibitory pheromone did not suppress the casting of wings in newly-eclosed female alates that were relieved of their antennae. Dealation normally occurs within 1 h of a mating flight, whereas uninseminated alates isolated from colony members shed their wings significantly later. Therefore, dealation in the context of the colony and after mating flights appears to occur via separate mechanisms.

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