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Research article2005Peer reviewedOpen access

Indirect effects of ant predation (Hymenoptera : Formicidae) on bilberry Vaccinium myrtillus

Atlegrim, O


Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus L.) is one of the dominant plants of the Fennoscandian boreal coniferous forest and constitutes a major food source for many insect herbivores. A common ant species in these forests is the wood ant Formica (Formica) aquilonia Yarrow, which preys heavily on other invertebrates within its territories. The aim of this study was to investigate whether aquilonia's predation on the insect herbivores may have indirect positive or negative effects on bilberry. Damage to the bilberry, its vegetative growth and reproduction were quantified in order to contrast localities close to (2 m) and far away from (50 m) ant nests. Close to ant nests, herbivore damage to the bilberry was significantly lower and reproductive success, i.e. proportion of flowers succeeding to berries, significantly higher. The results of this study therefore suggest that distance to aquilonia nests, and thus predation from ants, can significantly affect herbivore damage to the bilberry and its reproductive success (supporting the hypothesis of a top down effect in this three-trophic-level system). Vegetative growth, i.e., density and biomass of current year shoots, and reproductive investment, i.e., proportion of current year shoots with flower, of the bilberry was, however, not affected by distance to ant nests, indicating that the bilberry can also compensate for losses due to herbivory

Published in

European Journal of Entomology
2005, Volume: 102, number: 2, pages: 175-180

      SLU Authors

    • Alinvi, Ola

      • Department of Animal Ecology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use

    Publication identifier


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