The study found that ant queens had more virus species than workers or males. Queens may physiologically be able to withstand more viruses, or they may have more social interactions through which viruses transmit than workers or males.
Some of the viruses were found from the ants all year round whereas other viruses were seasonal. Interestingly, all the seasonal viruses appeared during warm months and disappeared when weather become cold (Figure 1). Food collecting activity of the ants also increase during summer and hence it is possible that the seasonal viruses came from the insect prey.
Argentine ants have invaded 6000 kilometres of the Mediterranean coast and thus they cover extremely large area where they could spread viruses to native insects. For example, Kashmir bee virus, which is one cause for the global bee decline, is among the seasonal viruses that infects the invasive Argentine ant.
The Argentine ant queens (pink bars) have on average more virus species that workers (grey bars). Abundance of virus species in the invasive Argentine ants is highest when the temperature (black line) is highest on July.
Abril S and Jurvansuu J. (2020) Caste and season specific variation of RNA viruses in the invasive Argentine ant European supercolony. Journal of General Virology. DOI 10.1099/jgv.0.001384
Main photo: Argentine ants in laboratory. Photo: Jaana Jurvansuu
Last updated: 6.2.2020