We observed that ants may learn to avoid treated surfaces when conducting laboratory bioassays with contact insecticides. We exposed Argentine ants and red imported fire ants to a binary choice test of treated and untreated surfaces leading to a preferred food source. We also conducted no choice tests. Depending on the type of insecticide, the ants learned to avoid the insecticide treated surface and either traveled across untreated surfaces or stopped foraging. We hypothesize that ants perceive the treated surface as a source of mortality and change their behavior to avoid traveling across treated surfaces even if they do not forage. We performed laboratory bioassays to determine if the learned avoidance behavior was due to lack of reinforcement of foraging trails or perceived mortality risk associated with the treated surface.
Species 1: Hymenoptera Formicidae Solenopsis invicta (Red imported fire ant, fire ant)
Species 2: Hymenoptera Formicidae Linepithema humile (Argentine ant)
Keywords: ant behavior, bioassay
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