Bait visitation by Formica lemani (Hymenoptera: Fomicidae) indicates shortage of carbohydrates in alpine grasslands
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Insights can be gained by analysing the feeding decisions of animals in terms of nutrient demands at a species or community level. Using carbohydrate and protein food baits, resource use and food preferences of Formica (Serviformica) lemani were determined at nine locations situated at different altitudes (1875 to 2400 m a.s.l.) in the alpine grassland belt above the tree line in Austria and northern Italy. F. lemani is the most common species of ant in this habitat. Sucrose baits placed around ant colonies were visited by signifi cantly (3.9 times) more workers than protein baits. This indicates that sources of sugar (carbohydrate) are in short supply in the alpine zone, whereas availability of prey items appears to be less constraining. Overall, we recorded a decrease in the incidence of visits to baits from low (31.9% baits attracting ants at least once) to high altitudes (16.7%). Foraging ants never visited 51.5% of the baits exposed for periods of 75 min. This indicates that with increasing altitude competition for food among ant colonies becomes less intense in alpine grassland ant communities.