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Effect of particulate contamination on adhesive ability and repellence in two species of ant (Hymenoptera; Formicidae)

Anyon, Matthew J.; Orchard, Michael J.; Buzza, David M. A.; Humphries, Stuart; Kohonen, Mika M.


Matthew J. Anyon

Michael J. Orchard

Stuart Humphries

Mika M. Kohonen


Tarsal adhesive pads are crucial for the ability of insects to traverse their natural environment. Previous studies have demonstrated that for both hairy and smooth adhesive pads, significant reduction in adhesion can occur because of contamination of these pads by wax crystals present on plant surfaces or synthetic microspheres. In this paper, we focus on the smooth adhesive pads of ants and study systematically how particulate contamination and the subsequent loss of adhesion depends on particle size, particle surface energy, humidity and species size. To this end, workers of ant species Polyrhachis dives and Myrmica scabrinodis (Hymenopte ra; Formicidae) were presented with loose synthetic powder barriers with a range of powder diameters (1-500μm) and surface energies (PTFE or glass), which they would have to cross in order to escape the experimental arena. The barrier experiments were conducted for a range of humidities (10-70%). Experimental results and scanning electron microscopy confirm that particulate powders adversely affect the adhesive ability of both species of ant on smooth substrates via contamination of the arolia. Specifically, the loss of adhesion was found to depend strongly on particle diameter, but only weakly on particle type, with the greatest loss occurring for particle diameters smaller than the claw dimensions of each species, and no effect of humidity was found. We also observed that ants were repelled by the powder barriers which led to a decrease of adhesion prior to their eventual crossing, suggesting that insect antennae may play a role in probing the mechanical fragility of substrates before crossing them. © 2012. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd.


Anyon, M. J., Orchard, M. J., Buzza, D. M. A., Humphries, S., & Kohonen, M. M. (2012). Effect of particulate contamination on adhesive ability and repellence in two species of ant (Hymenoptera; Formicidae). The journal of experimental biology, 215(4), 605-616.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Nov 1, 2011
Online Publication Date Jan 25, 2012
Publication Date Feb 1, 2012
Journal The Journal of Experimental Biology
Print ISSN 0022-0949
Electronic ISSN 1477-9145
Publisher The Company of Biologists
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 215
Issue 4
Pages 605-616
Keywords Insect Science; Animal Science and Zoology; Aquatic Science; Physiology; Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics; Molecular Biology
Public URL
Publisher URL
PMID 22279067