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The Paquera Zompopos hunting expedition

- by A. Sunjian

This article was a result from a trip to Costa Rica that we made in November 2002.

I've found that the easiest way to find zompopos in Costa Rica is to simply ask people about it.

I had assembled information on the occurence of leafcutters in different towns and areas along the tip of the Nicoya peninsula. However, one day before we had to leave for San Jose, I still was not able to find samples in the town of Paquera, on the eastern edge of the peninsula.

Paquera is on the upper right side...

I spent most of the morning of December 5 driving along the dusty roads of the town, stopping at points to ask for zompopos. I spent some time both in the Elementary school and local college, after tips from some construction workers, but that did not pan out.

Finally, on the road towards Playa Naranja (which is about 1 hour northeast of Paquera by REALLY bad roads), I met a guy who pointed me to an old man and a younger guy both riding on a dune buggy/motorcycle contraption. After the usual haphazard communication in spanish, I figured out that I was supposed to follow them.

We drove back to Paquera, and ended up in a huge orchard owned by the old man. He said he had lots of zompops that climbed the trees, but we could not find any in his mango stands....we decided i would come back 530-600 pm when they might come out.

I spent the next few hours lazing on the beach.

At around 5pm i took off for my meeting...found the mango orchard but it was so dark i kept going in circles....but the grandfather and his grandson - antonio jimenez - soon came and the grandson found the nest at the base of a ditch. They left me and said I could stay as long as I wanted.

Excited like heck, I examined the mounds...I had a hope they might be some Atta species based on the observations of the owner and grandson, but I found them to be the usual Acromyrmex, although the nest mounds were bigger than any I had yet seen.

My flashlight was getting pretty dim, but the grandson came back and offered a bigger flashlight...

The ants were just beginning to come out in the dark, many were ditching soil out of the nest. I also noticed all these spiders hanging out near the mounds - although they did not seem to prey on the ants, and the ants ignored them for the most part unless they got in the way.

The kind of ant i found, Acromyrmex octospinosus!

Pic of a spider that hang out near the mounds!

I really wanted to stay longer, but the mosquitoes were starting to get serious about harassing me, and i was not comfortable staying in an entirely dark and deserted orchard with almost knee-high grass (you just never know when a snake might chance upon you), so i took my samples and gratefully left for home.

I felt like i had gone through a battle, but i had won in the end and i was happy.

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