Tag Archives: Day 7

The Best Day Ever

Today was actually one of the most exciting days at Las Cuevas. It started out by us waking up early and leaving around 5:30 to hike the Bird Tower Trail. The trail was very steep and the leaf litter was slippery, which made for an interesting hike with me falling off balance every couple steps and some people actually falling and sliding down. Once we got the bird tower 6 of us climbed up at a time, and while it was a bit scary climbing up the rickety ladder, the views from the top were indescribable. The sun was still rising, and I could see over all the trees of the canopy and the mist covering the tops. We definitely worked up an appetite after the hike though.

After breakfast, we went out to collect all the camera traps that we had set out the first day, but Scott told us we had to wait to check them until the sunset. While on the hike, we found a really cool beetle called the golden tortoise beetle, and another brown anole which Veronica picked off the trunk of a tree that was covered in lichen. I tried to hold it, but it bit her hand and jumped away back towards the tree.

Later, we left with Scott and the other group of students from Mississippi to do leafcutter ant nest excavations. We started with a one-year-old nest and found the queen, which was way bigger than I imagined it to be and I got to hold it in my hand. Once we moved to the monster ant nest we had trouble finding the fungus chamber, but we did find the dump chamber where the ants put their waste.


Finally, after dinner, we all gathered around Scott’s computer to look at the long-awaited camera trap photos. In the very first camera trap photo, we saw a tapir and its butt, then the very next picture was a jaguar!! We ended up having two amazing pictures of jaguars, and it literally made my day and I will probably be thinking about it for months. Also, the pictures of Adrienne were pretty great too.



Day 7: Ant-man

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.

A soldier leaf-cutter ant locking down its jaw on my field notebook…

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.

You Wouldn’t Belize It If We Told You

Day 7: May 21st 2018, Las Cuevas

So I am just going to preface that this was a pretty amazing day for all of us, especially me as the mammals expert.  We woke up around 4:30 am, went on an early hike on the bird trail which was incredibly hilly, ate breakfast, then went out to collect our camera traps from the first experiment.  We saw some interesting stuff including a Golden Tortoise Beetle which looked like it had a clear shell over it (resembling a tortoise shell).  It actually stayed on Professor Solomon until we finished our hike. After that we had lunch, and then we set iff with the other group staying at Las Cuevas to find some leaf cutter ant nests.

First we dug into a small, one year old nest until we reached a tunnel that lead to their fungus garden.  You see, leaf cutter ants are agriculturists who cut and collect leafs to feed to a fungi that they cultivate to eat.  We actually dug so far in that we found the queen and go to hold her.  Next we dug into a 15-20ft across nest that was between 15 and 20 years old. Yes, it actually was that large.  We actually dug until we found their dump chamber that was full of old fungi, dead ants, and ants working the dump.  The dirt was even warm from the decomposition.  

However, after dinner, we look at our camera traps…. I’ll just start but saying that we say more than any other group in bio 319 history has ever seen.   We saw Baird’s Tapir with its long upper lip, fat butt, and stubby tail.  We saw 2 jaguars!!!! They were even confirmed to be different individuals based on their patterning. We saw a total of 8 collard Peccaries: 7 on trail, 2 off trail.  They essentially look like wild pigs with more triangular heads.  I noted that 2 imaged peccaries appeared to be in a juvenile, adult transition with browner fur around the head and a black strip down the back. We captured 3 images of what we believe etc to be pumas, one of which was so close to the lens that it was complexity whited out making it impossible to see anything but the outline.  We also saw Alfaro’s rice rat roaming around the off trail forest floor.  It had a distinctly triangular head with a downward sloping nose ridge making it quite easy to identify.  

We also saw an elusive 9 Banded Armadillo which I honestly was not expecting to see.  They don’t necessarily have to have 9 bands but they are distinctly banded.  Finally, we saw a coatimundi, a mammal in the raccoon family. Its about the size of a medium sized dog with a skinny and small head. The one we saw had orangish-brown fur and it was standing atop a fallen tree trunk.  

All I can saw is that seeing a single Baird’s Tapir or large cat was the goal, and we were all completely blown away.  However, apparently something is fruiting which apparently attracts some mammals which would also attract the big cats making our timing the most ideal time to set our camera traps.  To say the least, we all went to bed in awe, and even we were in disbelief and jealous of ourselves despite the fact hat we were living it.   What a wonderful last day in the Chiquibul.  Also we miss you Adrienne!