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Attines in Cancun, Merida area of Mexico

- by A. Sunjian

Just wanted to get this in print for those who may someday visit near these areas:

I encountered 4 different attine colonies in the area...i have to say that i am very impressed with the organization of these ants...all formed long lines with numerous ants running to and from the nest area, with incoming ants bearing cut leaves or other plant matter high up in the air like banners...

(1) Hotel Zone, km 14, across from Faro's Restaurant, near the Barracuda marina...nests against a wall. Atta colony.

This was particularly funny because the colony was in the heart of the ultra commercialized Hotel Zone in Cancun, with 5-star hotels running across the length of the zone..when i encountered this colony the ants were busy stripping the leaves of a decorative plant planted by the adjacent hotel near its walls...as i walked along the sidewalk, i noticed that they had stripped several other plants as well...

Here's a pic of these ants carrying leaf pieces toward the nests..
www.keyapa.com/ants/at...leaves.jpg

Here's a pic of a plant attacked by these ants...notice how bare it is above, and still leafy below...
www.keyapa.com/ants/atta_attacked.jpg

(2) Hotel Best Western Maria Del Carmen, Merida

Behind the swimming pool, there is a leafy area where the nest of an Acromyrmex colony lives...the ants come out in force at night, forming lines to either direction to forage for dead leaves and other plant mattter...they are the most prominent ants in the hotel area, where i also saw Pheidole, Odontomachus, and various smaller ants...

The ants are fairly monomorphic, with the same reddish dark color as the Atta that i found elsewhere...

I was looking at them using a flashlight at night and I attracted the attention of a cleaning kid, who seemed interested in the alcohol collection that i was making...since my spanish is not that great (yet), it was kinda hard getting a coherent conversation going though...

(3) Chichen Itza Ruins

I saw two colonies of a very highly polymorphic Atta sp...

One is close to the entrance way of the park, beyond the restrooms...the ants form lines along trails that stand out among the leaf litter...

The second is close to the Observatory ruins, where the ants battle the rubber shoes and heels of tourists daily...

Here is a blurry pic of 4 ants from the same colony showing how highly polymorphic the species is...the largest is an impressive major more than 1 cm long...
www.keyapa.com/ants/atta_castes.jpg

I noticed how relatively long their legs seem to be in death...

I'm sure that if I had lived down south where the Attines thrive, they would sooner or later become as commonplace (and unremarkable) as the weaver ants became to me...that's just how people are...but i must admit that i was thrilled to see those colonies during the trip...i must have seemed like one odd character taking pics of the leaf cutter nests while other people walked around in the Zona Hotelera, but i tried to get as much time with these guys as possible, the Gods and my wife willing...

I would give a lot to witness the foraging of large mature colonies instead of the seemingly younger nests that i found in the city/town areas....

Here's a pic (which i posted elsewhere) of a largish worker from Chichen Itza:
www.keyapa.com/ants/atta_1.jpg

These ants are seemingly fearless and instead of hiding when disturbed or when human beings come close just go along with their business (which is not good when you are in the middle of a tourist zone and are in constant danger of getting stepped on)..the Atta and Acromyrmex in their trails took absolutely no notice of me even when i moved very close...in contrast,weaver ants absolutely go nuts when they see something as large as myself come close...

Here's a pic of a nest area in the Zona Hotelera:
www.keyapa.com/ants/atta_nest.jpg

The workers where piling grains of sand outside when i viewed them...

Here's the Acromyrmex pic i posted elsewhere:
www.keyapa.com/ants/acromyrmex_1.jpg

One regret that I have is that I did not visit the colony in the Zona Hotelera at night, because it seems that the activity of these ants starts going up when the sun becomes less intense....

Oh well...maybe next time.

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