Leafcutter Ants in Cancun

Discussion in 'Living in Cancun' started by asj2008, Jul 28, 2008.

  1. asj2008

    asj2008 Enthusiast Registered Member

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    I visited the Kabah park quikly while my wife did some shopping at the HUGE metro store across. Only spent about 30 minutes in but did find Acromyrmex octospinosus, another leafcutter. The park was fairly deserted (around 3 pm), with an empty parking lot, but did meet maybe 4 or so groups of people also walking around. Was kinda scared of going too far in given what i first thought was its deserted state, but then met a family and that eased my mind. Btw, it is extremely difficult to find your way in centro (we drove)...i'm still not sure how the street signs work, with all the pointing arrows... :wink:
     
  2. RiverGirl

    RiverGirl Guest

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    Oh god! Don't even get me started on how stupid the street signs are here. They've put up big signs with arrows pointing in the direction that you will find a street, but when you get to said street there's often no sign to indicate you've found it. It's very bad!

    Parque Kabah is safe at all times. Don't worry about it. I've run there alone at all times of day for 5 years and have never had any weird stuff happen at all (unless you count a snake crawling across my shoe and having a spider monkey fall in love with my husband).

    Don't even worry about it. You might see some guys with machetes in there, they are park workers. They used to make me nervous, but then I made friends with them figuring if they know me they are more likely to protect me with their machetes if something bad happens. But the park is full of runners and families, so don't worry about being there alone. You can tell it's safe because it's full of women alone...
     
  3. RiverGirl

    RiverGirl Guest

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    asj2008 - I have an ant question for you. It's a bit gross.

    The other day when I was done running I spit on the ground right near the entrance to an ant colony (maybe 1 inch away). The ants came running and quickly started piling pieces of sand and tiny pebbles in the spittle. They completely covered it in a matter of minutes. Why?

    After they covered the spot of spit they ignored it. At first I thought they were trying to preserve the moisture for later use. But then I thought maybe they were trying to neutralize a potential danger to the colony (spit running into the entrance). But neither answer satisfies me.

    And then I started wondering why ants don't drown when we get 10 inches of rain?

    I know, I know, I have too much time on my hands if I'm worrying about ants and spit.
     
  4. asj2008

    asj2008 Enthusiast Registered Member

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    It depends on the ant species....in some ant species (e.g. many Pheidole) the ants protect a potential food source from other ants by covering it. Some other ants though cover upany disagreeable liquids that they don't like - I would hazard a guess this is the case with you since you said the liquid did not attract mobs of ants around it.

    With regards to rain and ants, heavy flooding does wreak havoc with ants. In the case of fire ants for example, you can often see balls of ants floating on the water after heavy flooding - the ant colony survives and lands in a new nest location. In Atta (leafcutter) nests which could be enormous (up to 6 m deep in mature nests), the nests are constructed such that important cavities have tunnels that arch down and then up to protect the cavities.

    Btw, I cannot find Atta colonies here in Zona Hotelera, although the locals do say they are present at certain times. As steve pointed out, it seems this time is a quiescent period for them.
     
  5. asj2008

    asj2008 Enthusiast Registered Member

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    I found many colonies of Acromyrmex octospinosus in Kabah parque...this is a smaller genus of leafcutters, unlike the very large Atta species.

    Here's one i saw trundling along:

    [​IMG]

    I'm hoping steve can show me a larger pic of his ants so I can see whether it's the same species.

    If this is the dominant leafcutter here, then it explains why many people don't notice it...its colonies are fairly small (a few thousand individuals as opposed to the several millions in Atta sp), and it does not have the gigantic soldiers in Atta sp. as well.

    Here's an Atta laevigata soldier for comparison:

    [​IMG]
     
  6. GONZO

    GONZO Guru Registered Member

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    Holy Sh@*! Just think if that was the size of say, a dog!!

    Wouldnt wanna mess with him. I like the spkies on his back.
     
  7. RiverGirl

    RiverGirl Guest

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    I've never seen soldier ants like that here. The leafcutter ants I've seen have all been pretty small ants.

    Once at a Mayan ruin near Chetumal I saw a line of leafcutter ants that was at least a kilometer long! We followed them through the jungle and couldn't believe how long the line was, and everyone of them was carrying a leaf. Someone had just cut down a tree and the ants were busy cutting up and carrying off all its leaves. It was an amazing sight.
     
  8. Steve

    Steve Administrator Owner

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    I've never seen soldier ants like that one either. I have seen the soldiers from the nest we had and they were not half as fearsome. Although they still had pronounced jaws they didn't have the heart shaped head and spiky thorax. Ours were more like the first picture.

    I'll try to get a pic when I see them around again, although they really only come out in any numbers after dark recently so macro + flash in my hands may not produce anything worth seeing.
     
  9. asj2008

    asj2008 Enthusiast Registered Member

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    Well, we're back in jersey already, where i'm already missing the palm trees....

    Anyways...

    Yep, the presence of large soldiers (they're all "she", btw, all worker ants are female) is a sign that they are Atta sp.

    Here's soldiers of Atta cephalotes, which is what I saw in Merida and the Yucatan ruins, and which is the species of Atta that would be in Cancun if at all:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
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