Insect behaviour

Arboreal ants build traps to capture prey

Tiny ants construct an elaborate ambush to immobilize and kill much larger insects.


To meet their need for nitrogen in the restricted foraging environment provided by their host plants, some arboreal ants deploy group ambush tactics in order to capture flying and jumping prey that might otherwise escape1,2,3,4. Here we show that the ant Allomerus decemarticulatus uses hair from the host plant's stem, which it cuts and binds together with a purpose-grown fungal mycelium, to build a spongy ‘galleried’ platform for trapping much larger insects. Ants beneath the platform reach through the holes and immobilize the prey, which is then stretched, transported and carved up by a swarm of nestmates. To our knowledge, the collective creation of a trap as a predatory strategy has not been described before in ants.

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1: Galleried platforms built by Allomerus workers act as traps for prey.


  1. 1

    Heil, M. & McKey, D. Annu. Rev. Ecol. Evol. Syst. 34, 425–553 (2003).

  2. 2

    Hölldobler, B. & Wilson, E. O. The Ants (Harvard Univ. Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1990).

  3. 3

    Dejean, A. & Corbara, B. in Arthropods of Tropical Forests. Spatio-temporal Dynamics and Resource Use in the Canopy (eds Basset, Y., Novotny, V., Miller, S. E. & Kitching, R. L.) 341–347 (Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, UK, 2003).

  4. 4

    Morais, H. C. Insectes Soc. 41, 339–342 (1994).

  5. 5

    Benson, W. W. in Amazonia (eds Prance, G. & Lovejoy, T. E.) 239–266 (Pergamon, New York, 1985).

  6. 6

    Offenberg, J. Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. 49, 304–310 (2001).

  7. 7

    van Borm, S., Buschinger, A., Boomsma, J. J. & Billen, J. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B 269, 2023–2027 (2002).

  8. 8

    Davidson, D. W. Biol. J. Linn. Soc. 61, 153–181 (1997).

Download references

Author information

Correspondence to Jérôme Orivel.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Methods (DOC 34 kb)

Supplementary Figure (PDF 471 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Further reading


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.