When attempts at robbing prey turn fatal
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.
KeywordsAnt 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).
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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