Answer to the Monday Night Muellerian Mystery

A cross-section of a Cecropia tree reveals an Azteca ant nest with brood and mealybugs. Plus, note the small white Muellerian food bodies growing at the base of the leaf stem. (Panama)

What was that mystery doubleheader? Several of you correctly surmised that I had shown the inside of an ant plant. But which one, in which region, and the particulars of the objects caused some trouble, so the answers came out piecemeal across several of your entries.

Points are awarded as follows: Brian Spitzer gets 4 for being the first to name the region (2), and for being first to get that this was an ant-plant with a honeydew-producing insect inside (2).  Josh King gets 2 points for being the first to note the food bodies. Julio Chaul gets 5 for being the first to pick the correct system- Cecropia- and for noting the Muellerian food bodies. And finally, Matt Bertone picks up two for picking that the insect is a pseudococcid mealybug.

This brings us to the end of the May, and we have a tie for the month between Jesse Hardin, who picked up his ten points all at once, and Matt Bertone, who pulled even with a gradual accumulation of points across several weeks. Matt and Jesse- congratulations! Contact me for your loot.

An Azteca worker with food bodies and larvae inside the stem of a Cecropia tree. (Colombia)


2 thoughts on “Answer to the Monday Night Muellerian Mystery”

  1. The quality of the photo allowed me to get that they were mullerian bodies, they have a small scar in one tip and aren’t as smooth as the eggs. I tryied the breed some colonies of Azteca once, collecting founding queens in small saplings There are lots of founding queens in only one small plant (in one I found 11 or 12, counting the 3 or 4 that were already dead). I had to collect several petioles of Cecropia, remove the mullerian bodies one by one and give them (except for this, they only accepted honey as food). I didn’t succed in breeding but learned well to differ the mullerian bodies from the eggs…

    Any of you know how this pseudoccocids come to the inside of the iternodes? As far as I know, the queen doesn’t carry one in their mating flight and the Azteca don’t seem to forage outside the tree (this is what some friends and I concluded in a small project we did for a discipline that we placed pitfall traps around the cecropias).

    Another thing, has anyone studied what is the main mortality factor acting in the founding queens we generally find when we open young plants? At that time, we wanted to investigate this, but we had no time and no ideia about how to performe experiments. Very interesting system!

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