One of the mysteries in insect biology is the mating of leaf-cutter ants. Although we know a lot about their nuptial flights (mating gatherings) we do not know where they actually gather and mate. Scott tells us that queens and males fly high in the sky during nuptial flights, flying above the forest canopy. No one has recorded their mating behavior, still.
Today we set out to do an ant excavation with the large crew from the Mississippi University. We dug out an 1-year old leaf-cutter ant’s nest and found the queen, which was about 8-12 times bigger than the worker ants. We also excavated a 20+ ft long nest, which was likely over 25 years old, and located the dump chamber. It was a first experience for us, even for Scott, who for the first time noticed the higher temperature of the dump chamber, likely due to its decomposing cycle.
In the evening, we went through the photographs that we captured via camera traps. They were some of the best things that has happened to us so far because of the surprising nature of the reveal. From dark, incomprehensible images to bright jaguar images, the experimental results made us scream aloud. Some of the most exciting results we collected were timestamped photographs on peccaries, jaguars, a puma, curracels, an agouti, and a tapir. We were able to conclude from this experiment that there is higher biodiveristy found off trail in the Las Cuevas Research Station area than on trail.