Archive for the ‘Ants’ Tag

The Leafcutter Ants, (Civilization by Instinct) – Bert Hölldobler and Edward O. Wilson   1 comment

Philips’ Book Reviews

The Leafcutter Ants, (Civilization by Instinct) – Bert Hölldobler and Edward O. Wilson

If ever you want to know anything about ants you would read books by Bert Holldobler and/or Edward O. Wilson.  These two most learned of gentleman have spent their lives studying these amazing creatures and their social organization and nest structures.  They were even awarded a Pulitzer Prize for the 1990 tome simply entitled “Ants”.

A more recent publication – The Superorganism: The Beauty, Elegance and Strangeness of Insect Societies, (2009), provided an overview of the complex organizational world within the world of eusocial insects.

When I am out on a tour through a rainforest with a group of people I spent some time waxing lyrical about ants.  Many people arrive at Bosque with, if not the expectation, then at least the hope of seeing a large cat.  The lucky few are presented with that opportunity.  But so many visitors once they learn about the lives of such small and often overlooked insects that are ants now leave Bosque having had their prejudices refocused and now want to go away a read more about ants and their fascinating lives, forget cats.

Leafcutter Ants are the pinnacle of present insect society order and structure.  Here in this book is all that extra information that I don’t have time to cover, laid clearly before you.  This small volume could well have been subtitled “Everything you wanted to know about Leafcutter Ants and more”.

The authors have taken one chapter from The Superorganism and expanded it.  You can now read, in a very easy and compelling way about every aspect of a Leafcutter Ant colony from their evolution, distribution, life cycle and caste system.  You will learn why they cut leaves and what the subsequently do with them.  Interactions between the ants and the fungus that sustains them as well as how parasitic invaders are held at bay are all explained in an eminently lucid fashion.

The book is illustrated with amazing macro photography and graphics that help bring the world of the ants to life.

At 127 pages, I can thoroughly recommend this book to anyone, whether they have been out on tour with me or not, as an insight to a world unseen and previously ignored by the majority of people.

Philip is a biologist, writer and photographer as well as the onsite naturalist guide at Bosque del Cabo Rainforest lodge on the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica.

Click For Green Protection   Leave a comment

Felipe del Bosque Blog Oct 3rd 2011


A Wet Outlook

At the beginning of this week the metrological office of Costa Rica promised that the rain we had not received so far in this wet season would in fact arrive with Friday being the designated day.  They were not wrong.  It had remained fairly bright and sunny up until dusk of Thursday, but everyone awoke Friday morning to a thunderous downpour.  This cleared later in the day only to be repeated over the weekend in a similar fashion.

I don’t know how far into the future the prognostication goes but at this moment the weather does seem to be taking a change to that which we would normally expect this time of year.

My Precious

While I was engaged taking photographs of a katydid, out the corner of my eye I saw something moving and then stop then move again.  It repeated this action in a series of rapid motions.  When I turned my attention away from the katydid, I found I was looking at an ant which was carrying something almost as large as itself in its mandibles.  At this point it was almost in front of the lens so I could not resist the opportunity to capture its image.

Ponerine Ant

Ants are notoriously difficult to identify, which is a fairly typical situation with most tropical insects as I explain below with the beetles.  One of the problems with the ants is not the sheer number of species, which doesn’t approach that of the beetles, but rather the fact that each species, particularly the highly organized social ants, have many castes within the nest carrying out different tasks, allowing the nest to function as a single unit.  Many of the different castes are morphologically differentiated from one another, adapting them to sometimes very specialist roles.  All of these different caste members, no matter how different they may look from one another, are nonetheless of the same species.

I think this particular ant was one of the large ponerine ants whose species boast some of the large hunting ants.  People are probably familiar with stories of the Bala or Bullet Ant.  These are large ponerine ants whose bite can result in hospital treatment.  The larger ones are found on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, but here on the Pacific we have some smaller versions which are equally as capable of packing a painful sting.

It looked like this ant was carrying a cocoon, possibly containing an all but fully developed adult ant.  It was being seriously molested by a small Solenopsis ant which appeared to be attacking it or trying to drive it out of the area, hence the rapid jerky movements.  If you want to know how much of a sting a Solenopsis ant can pack, try standing in a Fire Ant nest.

Philip is a biologist, writer and photographer as well as the onsite naturalist guide at Bosque del Cabo Rainforest lodge on the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica.

 Photo Feature

Verdantly Coy

Green Click Beetle

There are lots of species of beetle.  Anyone who has previously read my blog will now know there are thousands, nay hundreds of thousands of beetle species around the world.  There are in the region of 320, 000 named species of beetle and that number is probably way short of the actual total due the many species of beetle that have not yet been found and named.  An estimated 1 in every 4 or 5 species of insect found during expeditions to the Amazonian rainforests will have previously been undiscovered and a great many of those will be beetles.

Costa Rica has approximately 47,000 named species of beetle on its records and so when you find a beetle that you can easily identify, you are very fortunate.  I know for some the challenge of identification is all part of the fun of field work, but when time is limited and you are dealing with a wide range of organisms, the easier the better.

Green Click Beetle

So when I found this beetle walking around on a rotting tree stump I was happy that I knew what it was immediately or at least what type of beetle if not species; a Green Click Beetle.  It belongs in the Family Elateridae, the Click Beetles of which there are approximately 1,200 species in Costa Rica.  The name literally describes the beetle; it is a beautiful rich metallic verdant green.  The click refers to the fact that in defense, the beetle will drop to the ground.  If it should fall on its back or in an effort to escape a predator, the beetle has a modified mechanism on its back which under muscular action will allow itself to “click” or jump itself right side up or away from danger.  As if to confirm my identification, the beetle obliged me by clicking and falling immediately to the ground.

Green Click Beetle

In order to photograph the beetle, I picked it up and put it back on its log but had it shut down, drawing in its legs and just lying still.  As time progressed, and after I had fired off a few shots, it eventually became active once again, finally moving to the edge of the branch, opened it elytra, or wing cases and took to the air.

Text and Photographs are taken from the forthcoming book:

The Natural History of Bosque del Cabo by Philip Davison

Temperature and Rainfall

Average Daily Temp High 90°F.  Average Daily Temp Low 74°F.

Average Daily Rainfall 0.75 ins.  Total Weekly Rainfall 5.23 ins

Average Daily Temp High 31.7°C.  Average Daily Temp Low 22.9°C.

Average Daily Rainfall 19.0mm.  Total Weekly Rainfall 132.8 mm

Species List for the Week


  • Howler Monkey
  • Spider Monkey
  • White-faced Monkey
  • White-nosed Coati
  • Red-tailed Squirrel
  • Spix’s Disc-winged Bats


  • Red-lored Amazon
  • Scarlet Macaw
  • Mangrove Black Hawk
  • Pale-billed Woodpecker
  • Golden-naped Woodpecker
  • Lineated Woodpecker
  • Red-crowned Woodpecker
  • Black-hooded Antshrike
  • Chestnut-backed Antbird
  • Common Paureque
  • Short-billed Pigeon
  • Long-billed Hermit
  • Chestnut-mandibled Toucans
  • Bananaquit
  • Cherrie’s Tanager
  • Golden-hooded Tanager
  • White-shoudered Tanager
  • Bright-rumped Atilla
  • Golden-crowned Spadebill
  • Great Kiskadee
  • Southern Beardless Tyrannulet
  • Tropical Kingbird
  • Western Pewee
  • House Wren
  • Riverside Wren
  • Masked Tityra
  • Black Vulture
  • Turkey Vulture


  • Barred Ameiva
  • Four-lined Ameiva
  • Golfo Dulce Anolis
  • Pug-nosed Anolis
  • Clawless Gecko
  • Mediterranean House Gecko
  • Cat-eyed Snake
  • Boa Constrictor


  • Marine Toad
  • Parachuting Red-eyed Green Tree Frog
  • Red-eyed Green Tree Frog
  • Banana Frog
  • Smokey Jungle Frog
  • Black and Green Poison Arrow Frog
  • Fitzinger’s Rain Frog
  • Tink Frog


  • Anartia Fatima
  • Anartia jatrophae
  • Dryas iulia
  • Heliconius erato
  • Heliconius ismenius
  • Heliconius sapho
  • Hermeuptychia hermes
  • Marpesia berania
  • Morpho Menelaus
  • Pierella helvina
  • Pierella luna
  • Pyrrhogyra crameri


  • Bamboo Orchid Flowering
  • Black Alligator Tree Fruiting
  • Calabash flowering and fruiting
  • Cannonball Tree Flowering
  • Clusia Vine Fruiting
  • Monkey Comb Tree Flowering
  • Candlestick Plant Flowering
  • Figs Fruiting
  • Golden Trumpet Vine Flowering
  • Hog Plum Fruiting
  • Ox Eye Vine Flowers
  • Protium Fruits
  • Santa Maria Fruiting
  • Water Hyacinth Flowering


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