Seasonal foraging activity and bait preferences of ants on Barro Colorado Island, Panama

Daniel A. Hahn, Diana E. Wheeler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


A yearlong arboreal baiting survey of ants was conducted during 1983 on Barro Colorado Island, Panama. Because of a severe El Niño event, the 1983 dry season in Panama was exceptionally long and dry with a distinct boundary between the dry and wet seasons. Baits, located on tree trunks, attracted both terrestrial and arboreal ants, allowing comparisons between the two groups. Species composition at baits changed dramatically with season. Baits were primarily occupied by arboreal species during the dry season, while wet season baits were occupied mostly by terrestrial species. Arboreal and terrestrial ants differed markedly in their preferences for protein- or carbohydrate-based baits; arboreal ants preferred protein-based baits and terrestrial ants preferred carbohydrate-based baits. Foraging preference for protein suggests that protein resources were limiting for arboreal ants, particularly during the dry season, and that carbohydrate resources were limiting for terrestrial ants. Fundamental differences in arboreal and terrestrial habitats may promote the differences in foraging strategies observed during an annual cycle in a seasonal tropical forest.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)348-356
Number of pages9
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2002


  • Ants
  • Bait preferences
  • Barro Colorado Island
  • El Niño
  • Foraging
  • Forest canopy
  • Panama
  • Seasonality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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