Garden Notes – July 2013 part 1

IMG 0507 from gwen meyer on Vimeo.

This was received from Gwen Meyer after a community work  gardening session when she had observed the activity of ants on one of our Acacias (acacia sieberiana- the paper-bark).

In a previous Garden Notes, there was reference to the mealy bug that was infesting our acacias and to our belated attempts to deal with it by the use of soap spray.  We have now seriously pruned the affected trees and look for signs of fresh life.  We have also introduced a programme of EM spray around the roots, where the mites reside, and to the whole tree, where the bark harbours mites which are later farmed by the ants for their sugars.


The process of making decisions in human groups falls between despotic and collegial leadership.

In the world of ants, a form of distributed leadership ensures ants can take advantage of foraging opportunities flexibly and quickly. A subset of leaders have a higher level of  information about food sources than the rest of the colony. They recruit members of the colony to follow their lead.

This type of distributed leadership is more efficient than building time consuming consensus throughout the colony. It is a trade off but preferable to centralized decision making which may not have access to all information.

This group of leader ants plays a role in collective decision making. Collington and Detrain (2009) argue that it is a sufficient number for represenation. Five percent of informed group members are enough to allow for an accurate decision making  in a group( Collington as in Couzin, 2005, Dyer et al. 2009). Consensus is reached through the pool of leadership or in some cases leaders act without consulting each other. The diversity of opinion works well in foraging because its increases ant colonies adaptability to changing food sources and maintains flexibility in fast changing conditions.

Collingnon, B., Detrain, C. 2009 .Distributive leadership and adaptive Decision making in the ant Tetramorium Caespitum The Royal Society Biological Sciences

Thank you, Gwen.  Much appreciated.”


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