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Boletín Científico. Centro de Museos. Museo de Historia Natural

Print version ISSN 0123-3068

Abstract

VILLANUEVA, Daniela; GARCIA, Rocío  and  MONTOYA LERMA, James. NESTS OF Atta cephalotes (HYMENOPTERA: MYRMICINAE) IN CONTRASTING COFFEE MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS IN THE DEPARTAMENT OF CAUCA, COLOMBIA. Bol. Cient. Mus. Hist. Nat. Univ. Caldas [online]. 2016, vol.20, n.2, pp.138-150. ISSN 0123-3068.  http://dx.doi.org/10.17151/bccm.2016.20.2.10.

The aim of the present study was to localize, quantify and characterize the nests of the leaf cutting ants under two contrasting management systems in coffee areas of the municipalities of Popayan and Cajibio, Department of Cauca. Eight shaded coffee plantations, 8 free standing coffee plantations and 4 forest fragments were selected. At each site rounds were made and active search for nests was carried out; in each site individuals from different castes were collected and identified and soldiers were measured. The nests areas were calculated as well as the number and size of the foraging tracks, and the defoliated plants were recorded. The number and area of the nests were related to environmental variables and the size of soldiers in the nest area was correlated. A total of 276 individuals form Atta cephalotes was collected. Four nests were recorded in forest fragments, eight in shaded coffee plantations and nine in free standing coffee plantations. Nest areas varied between 0.90 and 758.34 m², with trails from 1 to 32 m length. The area of the nests located in free standing coffee plantations showed significant differences in relation to nests located in shaded coffee plantations and in forest fragments, the latter being the largest ones. A positive correlation between size of the nests and tree richness, canopy cover and thickness of fallen leaves was found, while it was inversely correlated with room temperature. The width of the head was positively correlated with the area of the nests. A total of 32 plant species with signs of defoliation by A. cephalotes was recorded confirming the general habit of these species. The importance of maintaining species associated to the coffee crop as alternative resources and for the protection of the ant foraging is highlighted.

Keywords : colonies; leafcutter; mule-train ant.

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