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Experimental treatments and survival of transplanted harvester ant colonies

Cite this dataset

Cole, Blaine; Wiernasz, Diane (2021). Experimental treatments and survival of transplanted harvester ant colonies [Dataset]. Dryad.


In sessile organisms such as plants and benthic invertebrates, founding propagules typically suffer extremely high rates of mortality due to both extrinsic and intrinsic factors.  Many social insect species share similarities with these groups, but factors influencing early colony survival are relatively unstudied.  

We used a field experiment to measure the importance of environmental quality relative to intrinsic colony properties in the harvester ant, Pogonomyrmex occidentalis, by monitoring the survival of 584 experimental colonies. Colony survival was primarily determined by intrinsic factors. Multiple mating by the queen and larger colony size at the time of transplant increased survival, but queen size, maternal lineage and the composition of plant species in the vicinity of the colony did not. Food supplementation increased survival significantly when natural food was scarce, but was not consistently beneficial, in contrast to predictions. 

Our results emphasize the general importance of rapid growth and early attainment of large size in the survival of sessile species. However, attributes specific to ants, their sociality and mating system, also strongly affected survival. Colonies with multiply-mated queens were more likely to survive over a wide range of circumstances, highlighting the importance of this trait even at the early stages of colony life.

These are data to support the paper "The benefits of being big and diverse: early colony survival in harvester ants." The data are the experimental traits of the colonies used for transplantation (size and lineage of the queen, size of the colony, mating status, food treatment, local vegetation), the characteristics of the transplant itself (year of transplant and the transplant set) as well as the experimental results (the duration of survival and whether the colony survived until the end of the experiment).


These data describe the traits of the colonies that were transplanted in three summers, 2014-2016. The data are designed to be analyzed with survival analysis.  The traits of the colonies (e.g. size and lineage of the queen, size of the colony at transplant) are indicated in the dataset. The experimental factors (e.g. mating frequency, food supplementation, local vegetation) are given, as are variables that indicate the year of transplant, the transplant set and the colony identifier. The response variable is the duration of survival with the value of censor indicating whether the colony survived to the end of the data collection.


National Science Foundation, Award: NSF-IOS-1147418