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Ants defend coffee from berry borer colonization

Gonthier, David J., Ennis, Katherine K., Philpott, Stacy M., Vandermeer, John, Perfecto, Ivette
BioControl 2013 v.58 no.6 pp. 815-820
Formicidae, Hypothenemus hampei, agroecosystems, branches, coffee beans, field experimentation, foraging, herbivores, models, pest control, small fruits
Ants frequently prevent herbivores from damaging plants. In agroecosystems they may provide pest control services, although their contributions are not always appreciated. Here we compared the ability of eight ant species to prevent the coffee berry borer from colonizing coffee berries with a field exclusion experiment. We removed ants from one branch (exclusion) and left ants to forage on a second branch (control) before releasing 20 berry borers on each branch. After 24 h, six of eight species had significantly reduced the number of berries bored by the berry borer compared to exclusion treatment branches. While the number of berries per branch was a significant covariate explaining the number of berries bored, ant activity (that varied greatly among species) was not a significant factor in models. This study is the first field experiment to provide evidence that a diverse group of ant species limit the berry borer from colonizing coffee berries.