The fire ant, Solenopsis invicta, is notorious for its aggressive stinging behavior. Despite its venom being at the center of most of its interactions with humans, surprisingly little is known about S. invicta's capacity to synthesize and deliver venom. Here, venom synthesis by workers of different ages was investigated, and, using a novel technique, the amount of venom workers deliver per sting (venom dose) in response to human disturbance was quantified and its variation was investigated across worker venom store, worker age, worker size, and season. Synthesis ability did not last beyond 29 days after eclosion and venom dose varied by worker age and by season. Older workers (foragers) delivered less venom per sting than mid-age workers (reserves), and venom dose was 20% higher in the spring than in the rest of the year. So, fire ant venom synthesis is limited to early life, and venom dose in response to human disturbance varies depending on worker age and season.
Species 1: Hymenoptera Formicidae Solenopsis invicta (fire ant)
Keywords: venom production, venom dose
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