Hunting strategy of a generalist ant species proposed as a biological control agent against termites
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We studied the hunting behaviour of Myrmicaria opaciventris (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in order to evaluate if it can be used as a biological control agent against the termites that damage sugarcane plantations. Hunting workers foraged in groups and recruited nestmates at short-range when they encountered large termite soldiers or groups of small termite workers. Differences in prey capture concerned the: (1) means of detection (from a distance or by contact); (2) termite body part seized (small termites seized by the body; large termites by an appendage); (3) percentages of prey abandoned; and (4) use of venom. The sting of the workers is spatulated implying a topical application of the venom on the prey. Large termites were stretched by several workers whose adherence to the substrate is facilitated by well-developed arolia and claws on the legs while others spread venom on the body and carved it up. An adaptation to termite capture was noted with a distribution of tasks between the workers which subdued prey, and those which transported it. In the former case, the workers easily eliminated termite soldiers, successively attacked several termite workers and even captured new individuals while holding the first ones captured between their mandibles before retrieving them all at once. The remaining individuals were retrieved by the transporting workers. Given this particularly effective predatory strategy, we concluded that, under certain conditions, M. opaciventris can be used as a biological control agent against termites.
- Agriculture