Frizzi, F., Masoni, A., Balzani, P., Frasconi Wendt, C., Palchetti, V. & Santini, G. (2020) Palatability of glyphosate in ants: a field experiment reveals broad acceptance of highly polluted solutions in a Mediterranean ant.Environmental Science & Pollution Research, 27, 29666-29671. DOI:10.1007/s11356-020-09420-w (IF2019 3,056; Q2 Environmental Sciences)
Glyphosate is a systemic herbicide still used in many countries, though there are several known detrimental effects on animals. Previous studies concerning its effects on social insects are available, but they are primarily focused on honeybees; little is known about the interactions of this compound with ants. Here, we assessed whether different concentrations of glyphosate can be perceived by ant workers and to what extent. As a model species, we used the Mediterranean ant Crematogaster scutellaris, commonly found in agroecosystems. We performed 3000 individual tests of acceptance using ten different solutions of various concentrations of the herbicide. Half of the solutions contained added sucrose in order to test the possible masking effect of the sugar taste on glyphosate. We used comparable glyphosate concentrations to those previously used in other studies on social insects or suggested by the producer. We found that the acceptance of the solutions decreased as the concentration of the herbicide increased. However, a significant percentage of ants drank the solutions with concentrations up to dozens of times higher than those inducing toxic effects in bees. In light of these results, we urge further assessment of the effects of glyphosate on ants, particularly because the food ingested by workers is transferred to the brood and queens, posing a potential threat to the health of the entire colony. Surprisingly, we did not record any difference in acceptance between solutions with and without sugar; this point is discussed regarding drought stress.