Waste of leaf-cutting ants: disposal, nest structure, and abiotic soil factors around internal waste chambers
- 264 Downloads
Leaf-cutting ants produce large quantities of waste that harbor bacteria and fungi that are harmful to the colony. To be protected from these pathogens, the workers of Atta species present a sophisticated organization to manage harmful material, which can be deposited outside the nest or in internal chambers. However, little is known about the behavior of Acromyrmex species in handling and disposal of waste. Due to some observations, we assume that the same species of Acromyrmex can deposit waste outside the nest and into internal chambers and raise the following question: what determines the occurrence of internal waste chambers in Acromyrmex? To address this question, we verified whether nest depth influences the waste-chamber occurrence. We also verified the nest structure and the abiotic factors of soil beside each waste-chamber: pH and water content of the soil. For this, eight nests were excavated for Acromyrmex balzani and Acromyrmex rugosus rugosus. We verified that not only can the same leaf-cutting ant species deposit debris both outside and inside the nest but also the same nest can present internal chambers and external waste deposit. The soil beside the waste chamber always presented an acidic pH, while the humidity varied widely. Our results showed that the nest depth was highly correlated with the depth of the waste chamber (p = 0.0003) and probably has some influence on waste disposal. The characteristics of the nest and the role of depth in the choice of waste chamber location are discussed.
KeywordsAcromyrmex Debris chambers Garbage disposal Nest depth Waste management
We wish to thank the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) and the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq) for the fellowship granted to the first author (grant 2008/00522-9, FAPESP) and for the financial support (grant 2006/58043-3, FAPESP; grant 163911/2013-4, CNPq). We would like to thank Amanda Carlos and José Macena for the assistance with data collection. We also appreciate the reviewer’s valuable suggestions.
- Brady NC (1989) Natureza e propriedades dos solos. 7. ed. Rio de Janeiro: Freitas Bastos. p 898 .Google Scholar
- Caldato N (2010) Biologia de Acromyrmex balzani Emery, 1890 (Hymenoptera, Formicidae). Dissertation, São Paulo State UniversityGoogle Scholar
- Della Lucia TMC, Moreira DDO (1993) Caracterização dos Ninhos. In: Della Lucia TMC (ed) As Formigas Cortadeiras. Folha de Viçosa, Viçosa, Brasil, pp 32–42Google Scholar
- Deloya C (1988) Coleópteros lamelicornios asociados a depósitos de detritos de Atta mexicana (Smith) (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) em el sur del Estado de Morelos, México. Folia Entomol Mex 75:77–91Google Scholar
- Forti LC, Andrade ML, Andrade APP, Juliane FSL, Ramos VM (2006) Bionomics and identification of Acromyrmex (Hymenoptera: Formicidade) through an illustrated key. Sociobiology 48:135–153Google Scholar
- Fowler HG (1979) Las hormigas cortadoras del Paraguay de los géneros Atta Fabricius y Acromyrmex Mayr: bionomia, distribución y sistemática. Inform Cient 2:30–70Google Scholar
- Gonçalves CR (1961) O gênero Acromyrmex no Brasil (Hymenoptera, Formicidae). Stud Entomol 4:113–180Google Scholar
- Specht A, Diehl-Fleig E, Silva ME (1994) Atratividade de iscas de Beauveria bassiana (Bals) Vuill. A Formiga do gênero Acromyrmex (hymenoptera: Formicidae). An Soc Entomol Bras 23:99–104Google Scholar
- Silva O. (1997) Fertilizantes, corretivos e solos: o tripé das plantas. Campinas: Instituto Campineiro de Ensino Agrícola. p 55Google Scholar
- Silva KS, Castellani MA, Forti LC, Moreira AA, Lemos OL, Carneiro RCS, Khouri CR, Ribeiro AL (2011) Arquitetura de ninhos de Acromyrmex (Moellerius) balzani (Formicidae: Myrmicini: Attini) em pastagem na região sudoeste da Bahia. Pesqui Apl Agrotec 1:1–17Google Scholar
- Sudd JH (1982) Ants: foraging, nesting, brood behavior and polyethism. In: Hermann HR (ed) Social insect. Academic Press, New York, pp 107–155Google Scholar