Nutritional regulation influencing colony dynamics and task allocations in social insect colonies

Feng Rao, Marisabel Rodriguez Messan, Angelica Marquez, Nathan Smith, Yun Kang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


In this paper, we use an adaptive modeling framework to model and study how nutritional status (measured by the protein to carbohydrate ratio) may regulate population dynamics and foraging task allocation of social insect colonies. Mathematical analysis of our model shows that both investment to brood rearing and brood nutrition are important for colony survival and dynamics. When division of labour and/or nutrition are in an intermediate value range, the model undergoes a backward bifurcation and creates multiple attractors due to bistability. This bistability implies that there is a threshold population size required for colony survival. When the investment in brood is large enough or nutritional requirements are less strict, the colony tends to survive, otherwise the colony faces collapse. Our model suggests that the needs of colony survival are shaped by the brood survival probability, which requires good nutritional status. As a consequence, better nutritional status can lead to a better survival rate of larvae and thus a larger worker population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-27
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of biological dynamics
StatePublished - 2020


  • Social insects
  • adaptive modeling
  • backward bifurcation
  • bistability dynamics
  • foraging activities
  • nutritional regulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology


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