Gruppe Menzel

Keywords: chemical ecology, evolution of cuticular hydrocarbon profiles, antipredator behaviour, interspecific interactions, ecosystem functions of ants, ant community ecology, division of labor, tropical rainforest, ants, spiders, aphids.


Our group is interested in interspecific interactions between different ant species and between ants and other arthropods. Interactions between ant species can be competitive and aggressive, but also mutualistic. These interactions are studied from two perspectives: from a top-down perspective, we study community organization and ecosystem functions in ant communities in tropical rainforests. From a bottom-up perspective, we investigate specific interactions between different species. We study behavioural interactions and chemical signals that are involved in ant-aphid associations, ant-ant associations, and arthropod predator-prey interactions. A special focus is chemical communication, where we analyse cuticular hydrocarbons (CHC) of insects using GC-MS.

Current research questions:

  • Ecosystem functions and community organization in ants of tropical rainforests of South America and Southeast Asia.
  • Antipredator behaviour and non-consumptive effects of spider predators on arthropod prey: behavioural interactions, chemical cues, ecological consequences
  • Division of labour in Myrmica rubra Evolution of cuticular hydrocarbon profiles in ants and aphids
  • Ant-aphid interactions: the role of cuticular signals and learning mutualistic ant-ant associations (parabioses) in tropical South America  

Topics for research practicals, bachelor, diploma or master theses:

  • ecology of ants in habitats around Mainz
  • chemical ecology of ants: relation between cuticular hydrocarbons and species recognition, intra- and interspecific tolerance and e.g. waterproofing properties of the cuticle ant-ant interactions ant-aphid interactions

Methods applied:

  • field work
  • behavioural experiments in the labchemical analyses (GC-MS)
  • population genetics 



    Group leader

    PhD students

    Diploma and Staats­examen students

    • Patrick Schäfer
    • Elena Kraf