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Keywords:

  • Anthonomus;
  • Camponotus;
  • cerrado;
  • Curculionidae;
  • extrafloral nectary;
  • multitrophic interactions

Abstract

In the Brazilian savanna many plant species bear regular associations with patrolling ants that are aggressive towards insect herbivores. However, not only ants but also several species of predatory wasps are attracted to plants due to the extrafloral nectaries (EFNs). Such wasps feed on both herbivores and plant exudates. In this study we describe the foraging behavior of the social Polistinae wasp Brachygastra lecheguana in the extrafloral nectaried shrub Banisteriopsis malifolia, and investigated the influence of patrolling ants Camponotus blandus on the activity of the wasp. Brachygastra lecheguana fed on the endophytic larvae of Anthonomus (Curculionidae) beetles that developed inside flower buds. The wasp lacerated the bud layers to reach the beetle larvae located at the bud core. The wasp visits to Ba. malifolia were statistically related to the abundance of flower buds and beetles. Ant exclusion experiments revealed that the hunting behavior of B. lecheguana on beetles was not related to the absence of C. blandus. However we found that wasps spent more time consuming extrafloral nectar on branches where ants were excluded. This is the first study reporting extrafloral nectar consumption by B. lecheguana, as well as the predation on herbivores in natural areas. In cerrado vegetation, ants benefit the plant by reducing insect herbivores, and our study provides evidence that the B. lecheguana – Ba. malifolia system represents a potential interaction where the wasp may also benefit the host plant. The value of this wasp species as a plant-guard is discussed.