Thief ants of the genus Solenopsis are a diverse group of ants that are found in ant communities throughout the world. They have long been purported to practice lestobiosis, an interaction between small and larger-bodied ants, where small ants cryptically tunnel into larger-bodied ant nests within the subterranean environment and steal brood or eggs for consumption. Thief ants are extremely small, measuring 1-2 mm in length and many of the species within this group practice a subterranean life history, where they live the entirety of their lives exclusively belowground. Due to these key characteristics, the ecology and natural history of this group of ants has remained largely unknown despite their noted high abundance within the southeastern United States, especially in upland ecosystems. The purpose of this thesis is to improve our understanding of the ecology of this enigmatic group, providing a solid foundation for future work on their behavior, biology, and natural history. Therefore, this project first attempts to identify key abiotic environmental variables that potentially drive the diversity and distribution of this group in upland ecosystems. Next a field manipulation experiment was conducted in areas of high thief ant density to determine biotic effects between thief ants and the aboveground ant community. This was done by removing thief ants using belowground toxic baits and monitoring co-occurring ant worker abundances throughout a period of approximately 1 year. We found evidence that thief ants dominate belowground and diversity. Our field experiment also yielded evidence indicating that thief ants exert potential top-down regulation on entire ant communities.
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Master of Science (M.S.)
College of Sciences
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Open Access)
Ohyama, Leo, "The Ecology of Central Florida's Thief Ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae: Solenopsis)" (2019). Electronic Theses and Dissertations, 2004-2019. 6548.