The Potential of Colony Waste Material as an Effective Biological Control of Leafcutting Ant Herbivory: An Olfactory Approach

Fairhurst, Stacey M (2015) The Potential of Colony Waste Material as an Effective Biological Control of Leafcutting Ant Herbivory: An Olfactory Approach. Masters thesis, University of Gloucestershire.

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Abstract

With an increasing human population comes a greater demand for food. Those involved in food production are under pressure to increase agricultural output. A major threat to crop yield is the loss incurred by pests, specifically insects. Modern farming methods are subject to regulations that forbid the use of once deadly chemicals to control these threats rendering management more difficult. In the Neotropics, the major agricultural pest threat are leafcutting ants (Atta and Acromyrmex). These ants exhibit a well-structured social organisation, fungus cultivation, colony hygiene and a complex nest structure that allows them to overcome most pest management control methods. Living in such large colonies creates substantial amounts of waste material within the nest, which leafcutting ants often avoid contact with because of the pathogenic microorganisms that it harbours. The use of this waste material has previously been proposed as a natural deterrent method against leafcutting ant attack. Previous studies in this area tested the repellent effects using solid waste material collected from nests, I propose that the same repellent effects are present in waste odour. I tested experimentally whether the leafcutting ant Atta cephalotes would exhibit similar behaviour to waste odour as they do with solid waste material. I also tested the residual effectiveness of ant waste odour as a repellent over a period of time. In laboratory-based tests using a Y-shaped olfactometer, ants were subjected to several treatments to determine the repellent properties of any waste odour. When presented with clean air or air polluted with: (a) nest waste from any leafcutting any colony, they significantly chose to avoid the waste (P <0.0001); (b) nest waste from their own colony, they significantly chose to avoid the waste (P = 0.0093) and (c) nest waste from a donor colony, they also significantly avoided the waste (P <0.0001). However, this deterrent effect was only found to be effective for up to five days before the behavioural responses to it were not considered to be significant. However, as the deterrent effects offered by the solid organic nest waste material are also present in the chemical properties emanating from the odour of the waste, it has the potential to be used as a short-term method of natural, biological control in the management of leafcutting ants.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Thesis Advisors:
Thesis AdvisorEmailURL
Hart, Adamahart@glos.ac.ukhttp://www.glos.ac.uk/faculties-and-schools/natural-and-social-sciences/staff-profiles/pages/s2106030-adam-hart.aspx
Wood, Mattmjwood@glos.ac.ukhttp://insight.glos.ac.uk/academicschools/nss/staffprofiles/Pages/MattWood.aspx
Uncontrolled Keywords: Leafcutting ants, Attine ants, Atta, Acromyrmex, Social insects, Pest control, Natural deterents
Subjects: S Agriculture > SB Plant culture > SB599 Pests and diseases
S Agriculture > SB Plant culture > SB599 Pests and diseases > SB818 Economic entomology
Divisions: Schools and Research Institutes > School of Natural & Social Sciences > Environmental Sciences
Depositing User: Susan Turner
Date Deposited: 31 Oct 2016 09:24
Last Modified: 07 Jun 2017 15:39
URI: http://eprints.glos.ac.uk/id/eprint/4136

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