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Keywords:

  • Eucalyptus maculata;
  • aggressive behavior;
  • ant behavioral changes;
  • Hymenoptera;
  • Formicidae;
  • recognition system;
  • chemical communication

Abstract

Leaf-cutting ants are highly polyphagous insects, but some plants escape their attack due to the presence of secondary metabolites that are toxic to the ant–fungus symbiosis. Previous studies have demonstrated that the terpenoid β-eudesmol extracted from Eucalyptus species (Myrtaceae) is responsible for the deleterious behavior in colonies of leaf-cutting ant species. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effect of β-eudesmol on workers of the leaf-cutting ant Atta sexdens rubropilosa Forel (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). This chemical caused behavioral modification in the colonies, leading to mutilation and death of workers. It is suggested that β-eudesmol interferes with colony nestmate recognition. As a consequence, colony cohesion may be disrupted by β-eudesmol what could be used as an additional control tactic against this important pest ant.