In many ant species, nuptial flight tends to be short in time and assumed to be synchronous across a large area. Here, we report that, in the upper Jordan Valley, northern Israel, massive nuptial flights of Carpenter ants (Camponotus sp.) occur frequently throughout the summer, and their alates form up to 90% of the diet of the greater mouse-tailed bat (Rhinopoma microphyllum) during this period. This fat and protein-rich diet enables female bats to lactate during summer, and the large amount of fat that both sexes accumulate may serve as an energy source for their following winter hibernation and posthibernation mating in early spring (March-April). We suggest that the annual movement of these bats to the Mediterranean region of Israel may have evolved in order to enable them to exploit the extremely nutritious forms of ant alates when the bats' energetic demands are highest.
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Acknowledgements We thank Abraham Hefetz, John O. Whitaker, and Robert B. Suter for reading and commenting on an early draft, Naomi Paz for editing the manuscript, Tamar Katzav-Gozansky and Shai Meiri for fruitful discussions, and Armin Ionescu-Hirsch for identifying the ants. We thank two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments. This work was supported by The Open University of Israel Research Fund to AB and by the Israel Cohen Chair for Environmental Zoology to YYT.
- Nuptial flight