Housekeeping Army Ants

In Mashpi, we can observe one of the world’s most fascinating symbiotic relationships first-hand: that between army ants and ant birds. Army ants literally “sweep” the forest floor when they are hunting, spooking out insects from their hiding places. Over time a group of birds called antbirds have learned to follow these swarms as they hunt, capturing any insect that manages to escape the ants.

Believe it or not, at the lodge something similar happens, because every morning before guests arrive at our terrace for birdwatching, our team of housekeepers comes to clean and “sweep” all the moths that alighted here the the night before, attracted by the lights. Most of them manage to escape and fly into the forest. But, we have observed that the moths are then captured by a group of antbirds who have developed their own symbiotic relationship with our housekeepers! They take advantage of the morning sweep every day to feast on moths.

Our entire housekeeping team are a bit like ants: they’re ordered, organized and hard working. But they also play an important role in the ecosystem of the hotel, performing the same function of the army ants, providing food to antbirds.

2 comments on “Housekeeping Army Ants

[…] An example of commensalism in the forest is displayed in certain species of anteater birds. A group of birds follow the driver ants while the ants feed. As the ants hunt insects that live among the dead leaves of the forest, these insects often try to escape, and it’s at this time that the birds hunt the insects. Apparently these birds do not damage the ants, nor do the ants benefit directly from the birds, but this vehicle is very strong and in many instances it is difficult to see the anteater birds without the presence of driver ants. We recomend you to read  Housekeeping army ants […]

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[…] days ago, while I was following a group of ant-eating birds near the hotel, I was pleasantly surprised to see a tiny hawk. By the looks of things, it had been […]

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