As the more clever among you surmised, Wednesday’s mystery photo depicted an ant-acacia without a large colony of protective ants strung up with vines. Another giveaway that the poor plant hadn’t developed friendly ants, though not visible in the previous posting, was the abundance of Beltian bodies:
A healthy plant with ants sees the yellow food bodies harvested as soon as they are ripe, like so:
The ants repay the plant’s generosity by protecting it from intruding vines and other competing plants:
To photograph this scene during our whirlwind 4 days in Belize, I couldn’t just wait for a vine to happen by the Acacia. I’d still be there. Instead, I staged the lower photos by clipping some tendrils from the first, unprotected plant and applying them to the protected plant to watch the action. As expected, the ants didn’t hesitate to perform their guard duties.
By the way, Belize was unexpectedly charming. Hardly anyone lives in the country. The human population is only 300,000, so Belize retains the undeveloped rural ambiance I imagine was commonplace a century ago across much of Central & South America and is now sadly rare between the sprawl of cities and conversion to mechanized agriculture. Belizean forests are largely intact, the air is clean, the roads are empty of traffic, and the people are friendly. We’ll be going back.