, Volume 99, Issue 7, pp 579–582 | Cite as

When attempts at robbing prey turn fatal

  • Alain Dejean
  • Bruno Corbara
  • Frédéric Azémar
  • James M. Carpenter
Short Communication


Because group-hunting arboreal ants spread-eagle insect prey for a long time before retrieving them, these prey can be coveted by predatory flying insects. Yet, attempting to rob these prey is risky if the ant species is also an effective predator. Here, we show that trying to rob prey from Azteca andreae workers is a fatal error as 268 out of 276 potential cleptobionts (97.1 %) were captured in turn. The ant workers hunt in a group and use the “Velcro®” principle to cling firmly to the leaves of their host tree, permitting them to capture very large prey. Exceptions were one social wasp, plus some Trigona spp. workers and flies that landed directly on the prey and were able to take off immediately when attacked. We conclude that in this situation, previously captured prey attract potential cleptobionts that are captured in turn in most of the cases.


Ant predation Azteca andreae Cleptobiosis Myrmecophyte Social wasps Stingless bees Reduviidae Flies and dung beetles 



We are grateful to Andrea Dejean for proofreading early versions of the manuscript and to the staff of the Hydreco field station for accommodations and technical assistance. Financial support for this study was provided by the Labex CEBA 2012 (Tri-Nutri).

Ethical standards

The experiments comply with the current laws of the country in which they were conducted. The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alain Dejean
    • 1
    • 2
  • Bruno Corbara
    • 3
    • 4
  • Frédéric Azémar
    • 2
    • 5
  • James M. Carpenter
    • 6
  1. 1.CNRS; Écologie des Forêts de Guyane (UMR-CNRS 8172)Kourou cedexFrance
  2. 2.Université de Toulouse; UPS, INP, EcolabToulouseFrance
  3. 3.CNRS; Laboratoire Microorganismes, Génome et Environnement(UMR-CNRS 6023) Université Blaise PascalAubière cedexFrance
  4. 4.Clermont Université, Université Blaise Pascal, LMGEClermont-FerrandFrance
  5. 5.CNRS; Laboratoire d’Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Environnement (UMR-CNRS 5245)ToulouseFrance
  6. 6.Division of Invertebrate ZoologyAmerican Museum of Natural HistoryNew YorkUSA

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