Availability of food and nesting-sites as regulatory mechanisms for the recovery of ant diversity after fire disturbance


  • Roberth Fagundes Souza Univrsidade Federal de Ouro preto
  • Diego V Anjos Universidade de São Paulo
  • Raquel Carvalho Universidade federal de Ouro preto
  • Kleber Del-Claro Universidade Federal de Uberlândia




limiting resources, ant nest, competition, Cerrado, environmental disturbance


Nest-site is an important resource for cavity-nesting ants, what limits colony establishment and structures ant community composition through competition. In ecosystems frequently disturbed by firecontinuous establishment of new colonies is crucial to the process of natural succession.  Based on this perspective, we tested the hypothesis that fire reduces the amount of cavities for nesting (e.g., hollow branches, dry leaves curled, and galls), with negative impact on ant biodiversity. We searched for natural cavities and added artificial-nests to assess whether the occupancy rate and its consequences for colony growth. We also evaluated the availability of food sources for ants (EFN plants, honeydew-hemipterans and preys). We found that burned areas had less diverse and structurally simple vegetation. The occupation of natural and artificial nests was the same between the areas, but the reduced availability of nesting-sites in the burned area indicates higher limitation after the fire. This effect was even stronger in foliage habitat compared to the ground. In fact, most of the 11 cavity-nesting species found were typically arboreal. Species richness was lower in burned area, possibly due to lower nesting-sites availability, but the abundance was higher, which may be explained by the greater availability of food resources, mainly EFN-bearing plants. The high food availability may also explain the bigger colony size in burned area, since nectar and honeydew boosts colony growth and low richness prevents competition. In summary, our results show that changes in the availability of nesting sites and food resources may be key mechanisms by which fire changes the ant fauna, specifically cavity-nesting ants in the Brazilian Savanna.


Alves, R.J.V., Silva, N.G., Oliveira, J.A. & Medeiros, D. (2014). Circumscribing Campo rupestre – megadiverse Brazilian rocky montane savanas. Braz J Biol, 74: 355-362.

Alves-Silva, E. & Del-Claro, K. (2013). Effect of post-fire resprouting on leaf fluctuating asymmetry, extrafloral nectar quality, and ant–plant–herbivore interactions. Naturwissenschaften, 100: 525–532.

Alves-Silva, E. & Del-Claro, K. (2014). Fire triggers the activity of extrafloral nectaries, but ant fail to protect the plant agains herbivores in a Neotropical Savanna. Arth.-Plant Int, 8: 233-240.

Andersen, A.N., Hertog, T. & Woinarski, J.C.Z. (2006). Long-term fire exclusion and ant community structure in an Australian tropical Savanna: congruence with vegetation succession. J Biogeogr, 33: 823-832.

Armbrecht, I., Perfecto, I. & Vandermeer, J. (2004). Enigmatic biodiversity correlations: ant diversity responds to diverse resources. Science, 304: 284-286.

Armbrecht, I., Perfecto, I. & Silverman, E. (2006). Limitation of nesting resources for ants in Colombian forests and coffee plantations. Ecol Entomol, 31: 403-410.

Bess, E.C., Parmenter, R.R., McCoy, S. & Molles, M.C. (2002). Responses of a riparian forest-floor arthropod community to wildfire in the Middle Rio Grande Valley, New Mexico. Environ Entomol, 31: 774-784.

Blüthgen, N., Verhaagh, M., Goitía, W., Jaffé, K., Morawetz, W. & Barthlott, W. (2000). How plants shape the ant community in the Amazonian rainforest canopy: the key role of extrafloral nectaries and homopteran honeydew. Oecologia, 125: 229–240.

Byk, J. & Del-Claro, K. (2010). Nectar and pollen gathering Cephalotes ants provide no protection against herbivore: a new manipulative experiment to test ant protective capabilities. Acta Ethol, 13: 33-38.

Byk, J. & Del-Claro, K. (2011). Ant-plant interaction in the Neotropical Savanna: direct beneficial effects of extrafloral nectar on ant colony fitness. Popul Ecol, 53: 327-332.

Byrne, M.M. (1994). Ecology of twig-dwelling ants in a wet lowland tropical forest. Biotropica 26: 61-72.

Cobb, M., Watkins, K., Silva, E.N., Nascimento, I.C. & Delabie, J.H.C. (2006). An exploratory study on the use of bamboo pieces for trapping entire colonies of arboreal ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Sociobiology, 47: 215-223.

Davidson, D.W., Cook, S.C. & Snelling, R.R. (2004). Liquid-feeding performances of ants (Formicidae): ecological and evolutionary implications. Oecologia, 139: 255-266.

Davidson, D.W., Arias, J.A. & Mann, J. (2006). An experimental study of bamboo ants in western Amazonia. Insect Soc, 53: 108-114.

Dáttilo, W., Fagundes, R., Gurka, C.A.Q., Silva, M.S.A., Vieira, M.C.L., Izzo, T.J., Díaz-Castelazo, C., Del-Claro, K. & Rico-Gray, V. (2014). Individual-based ant-plant networks: diurnal-nocturnal structure and species-area relationship. PLos One, 9(6): e99838, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0099838

Del-Claro, K. & Torezan-Silingardi, H.M. (2009). Insect-plant interactions: new pathways to a better comprehension of ecological communities in Neotropical Savannas. Neotrop Entomol, 38: 159–164.

Fagundes, R., Terra, G., Ribeiro, S.P. & Majer, J.D. (2010). O bambu Merostachys fischeriana (Bambusoideae: Bambuseae) como habitat para formigas de Floresta Tropical Montana. Neotrop Entomol, 39: 906-911.

Fagundes, R., Del-Claro, K. & Ribeiro, S.P. (2012). Effects of the trophobiont herbivore Calloconophora pugionata (Hemiptera) on ant fauna associated with Myrciaobovata (Myrtaceae) in a montane tropical forest. Psyche, 12: 1-8.

Fonseca, C.R. (1999). Amazonian ant plant interactions and the nesting space limitation hypothesis. J Trop Ecol, 15: 807-825.

Friedrich, R. & Philpott, S. (2009). Nest-site limitation and nesting resources of ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in urban green spaces. Environ Entomol, 38: 600-607.

Frizzo, T.L.M., Bonizário, C., Borges, M.P. & Vasconcelos, H.L. (2011) Revisão dos efeitos do fogo sobre a fauna de formações savânicas do Brasil. Oecologia Australis, 15: 365-379.

Giuletti, A.M., Pirani, J.R. & Harley, R.M. (1997) Espinhaço range region, eastern Brazil. In: S.D. Davis, V.H. Heywood, O.J. Herrera-MacBride, O. Villa-Lobos, A.C. Hamilton (Eds.), Centers of plant diversity: a guide and strategy for their conservation (pp: 397-404). Oxford: Oxford Universtity Press.

Kolbek, J.I.R.I. & Alves, R.J.V. (2008). Impacts of cattle, fire and wind in Rocky Savannas, Southeastern Brazil. Acta U Carol Envir, 22, 111-130.

Lopes, J.F.S., Hallack, N.M.D., Sales, T.A.D., Brugger, M.S., Ribeiro, L.F., Hastenreiter, I.N. & Camargo, R.D.S. (2012). Comparison of the Ant Assemblages in Three Phytophysionomies: Rocky Field, Secondary Forest, and Riparian Forest - A Case Study in the State Park of Ibitipoca, Brazil. Psyche, 2012: 1-7. doi:10.1155/2012/928371

Hölldobler, B. (1976). Recruitment behavior, home range orientation and territoriality in harvester ants, Pogonomyrmex. Behav Ecol Sociobiol, 1: 3-44.

Hölldobler, B., & Wilson, E.O. (1990). The Ants. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 732 p

Houdeshell, H., Friedrich, R.L. & Philpott, S.M. (2011). Effects of Prescribed Burning on Ant Nesting Ecology in Oak Savannas. The American Midland Naturalist, 166: 98-111.

Jacobi, C.M. & Carmo, F.F. (2008). The contribution of ironstone outcrops to plant diversity in the Iron Quadrangle, a threatened Brazilian landscape. AMBIO, 37: 324-326.

Kaspari, M, (1996). Litter ant patchiness at the 1-m2 scale: disturbance dynamics in three Neotropical forests. Oecologia, 107: 265-273.

Lach, L., Parr, C.L. & Abbott, K.L. (2010). Ant Ecology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 424 p

Lange, D. & Del-Claro, K. (2014). Ant-Plant Interaction in a Tropical Savanna: May the Network Structure Vary over Time and Influence on the Outcomes of Associations? Plos One, 9 (8): 1-10.

Lewinsohn, T.M., Freitas, A.V.L. & Prado, P.I. (2005). Conservation of terrestrial invertebrates and their habitats in Brazil. Conserv Biol, 19: 640–645.

Mallon, E.B., Pratt, E.C. & Franks, N.R. (2001). Individual and collective decision making during nesting site selection by the ant Leptothorax albipennis. Behav Ecol Sociobiol, 50: 352-359.

Marques, G.V.D. & Del-Claro, K. (2006). The ant fauna in a Cerrado area: the influence of vegetation structure and seasonality (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Sociobiology, 47: 1-18.

Marquis, R.J. & Lill, J.T. (2010). Impact of plant architecture versus leaf quality on attack by leaf-tying caterpillars on five oak species. Oecologia, 163: 203-213.

McGlynn, T.P. (2006). Ants on the move: Resource limitation of a litter-nesting ant community in Costa Rica. Biotropica, 38: 419-427

Morais, H.C. & Bemson, W.W. (1988). Recolonizarão de vegetação de Cerrado após queimada por formigas arborícolas. R Bras Biol, 48: 459-466

Mistry, J. (1998). Fire in the Cerrado (Savannas) of Brazil: an ecological review. Prog Phys Geog, 224: 425-448.

Parr, C.L. & Gibb, H. (2010). Competition and the role of dominant ants. In L. Lach, C. Parr & K.L. Abbott (Eds.), Ant Ecology (pp: 77-96). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Peeters, C. & Molet, M. (2010). Colonial reproduction and life histories. In L. Lach, C. Parr & K.L. Abbott (Eds.), Ant Ecology (pp: 159-176). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Philpott, S.M. & Foster, P.F. (2005). Nest-site limitation in coffee agroecosystems: artificial-nests promote maintenance of arboreal ant diversity. Ecol Appl, 15: 1478-1485.

Powell, S., Costa, A.N., Lopes, C.T. & Vasconcellos, H.L. (2011). Canopy connectivity and the availability of diverse nesting resources affect species coexistence in arboreal ants. J Anim Ecol, 80: 352-360.

Rapini, A., Ribeiro, P.L., Lambert, S. & Pirani, J.R. (2008). A flora dos campos rupestres da Cadeia do Espinhaço. Megadiversidade, 4: 15-23.

Ribas, C.R., Schroeder, J.H., Pie, M. & Soares, S.M. (2003). Tree heterogeneity, resource availability, and larger scale processes regulating arboreal ant species richness. Austral Ecol, 28: 305-314.

Rico-Gray, V. & Oliveira, P.S. (2007). The ecology and evolution of ant–plant interactions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 320 p

Sagata, K., Mack, A.L., Wright, D.D. & Lester, P.J. (2010). The influence of nest availability on the abundance and diversity of twig-dwelling ants in a Papua New Guinea forest. Insec Soc, 57: 333-341.

Shik, J.Z. & Kaspari, M. (2010). More food, less habitat: how necromass and leaf litter decomposition combine to regulate a litter ant community. Ecol Entomol, 35: 158-165.

Silvestre, R., Brandão, C.R.F. & Silva, R.R. (2003). Grupos funcionales de Hormigas: El caso de los gremios del Cerrado. In: F. Fernández (Eds.), Introducción a las Hormigas de la Región Neotropical (pp: 113-148), Bogotá: Instituto de Investigación de Recursos Biológicos Alexander von Humboldt.

Underwood, E.C. & Christian, C.E. (2009) Consequences of prescribed fire and grazing on grassland ant communities. Environ Entomol, 38: 325–332.

Vasconcellos, H.L., Pacheco, R., Silva, R.C., Vasconcelos, P.B., Lopes, C.T., Costa, N.A. & Bruna, E.M. (2009). Dynamics of the leaf-litter arthropod fauna following fire in a Neotropical woodland Savanna. Plos One, 4: 1-9.

Viana-Silva, F.E.C. & Jacobi, C.M. (2012). Myrmecofauna of ironstone outcrops: composition and diversity. Neotrop Entomol, 41: 263-271.

Yamamoto, M. & Del-Claro, K. (2008). Natural history and foraging behavior of the carpenter ant Camponotus sericeiventris Guérin,1838 (Formicinae, Camponotinini) in the Brazilian tropical Savanna. Acta Ethol, 11: 55-65.




How to Cite

Souza, R. F., Anjos, D. V., Carvalho, R., & Del-Claro, K. (2015). Availability of food and nesting-sites as regulatory mechanisms for the recovery of ant diversity after fire disturbance. Sociobiology, 62(1), 1–9. https://doi.org/10.13102/sociobiology.v62i1.1-9



Research Article - Ants

Most read articles by the same author(s)

1 2 > >>