Report on the habits of the kelep, or Guatemalen cotton-boll-weevil ant

Report on the habits of the kelep, or Guatemalen cotton-boll-weevil ant


Material Information

Report on the habits of the kelep, or Guatemalen cotton-boll-weevil ant
Series Title:
Bulletin / U.S. Bureau of Entomology ;
Physical Description:
15 p. : ; 23 cm.
Cook, O. F ( Orator Fuller ), 1867-1949
U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Bureau of Entomology
Place of Publication:
Washington, D.C
Publication Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
Kelep   ( lcsh )
Boll weevil -- Biological control   ( lcsh )
federal government publication   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )


Statement of Responsibility:
by O.F. Cook.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
aleph - 029639800
oclc - 22612496
lccn - 06000474
bcl - 48.63
System ID:

Full Text




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1, kAep a was discovered on the cotton April. 20, 1904, in Alta
Guatemala, and its efficiency wsa destroyer of the Mexican
`t0t- w "I (Anth~mus granAv'Boh.) was demonstrated the
day- It was immediately appreciated, of course, that such
would be Aof vAue in Texas, providing that it could be colo-
w ould, tbrive'ini that State and that it had no noxious habits.
ion of these questions a] I subkquent study of the specieq
hA_ -6f th
practical use was also mi&l ese observations of
lifo-bistory, The ant has been brotight 6 Texas in healthy,
oondit notwithstanding injunction proceedings and other
dolays, which lengthened the period of travel and Cap-
440re than a- month. Of about 4,000 ants., in 89 colonies,
,_m$tre than a dozen died during the voyage, and half of these
muffle colony whi6 was for a time deprived of 'a quilen.
wm made good many times over by the emergence dur-
of numerousants from pupw which had been- collected
'Y tho awos with the, mature insects.
AWAdaWw'-orker ants expose themselves freely to dry air and
610, fa,tor in, the successful transportation of the colonies
1 'he ca' ky mea
om'oteral"- of 'adequate moisture in t ges ns
structed carefully built in to
#04% 0104 of earth- and stones
Vnd 6hambers not to be shaken down by the jarring
Mi.- atearnboat und rilroad travel. It was fortunate'
oevil, 4ot was quite unknown when we left the
for Jou-'r outfit imlddod'nothing in the w1ay of bell jars,
M b r tor wpli*inces recommended by Lubbock
fe0w,"ptors"'Of gat$" Much time mighthave been wastM
which would at best have been
A -'thaj -&P very simple means to which
Ott A i, ant, at least, the Ame and
i1a the, bmgmge of Alta Vera
1V but aprem to bave


to mO (1SLiri)Co ny tne occasional removal Ot me paper cup rq
bottom of their cage, and all the operations of the colonies
observed utinder conditions altogether favorable. kiM.K
It is not intended, however, to enter at this time upon &j
accounts of the interesting domestic behavior of the ants, bqu1.t
to give what might be called a biological outline of their a.t.i
from which it may be possible to understand something of thei*
in nature and of their probable utility in agriculture. :
One of several minor agricultural virtues of these ants lienij
fact that they dig no large chambers or passages which can s
pitfalls for men or farm animals, as do many other kinds, inS
the leaf-cutting ant of southern Texas, which the cotton plant
attempting to exterminate at much expense. The nest of the k
a simple burrow, extending from 1 to 3 feet into the ground, AM
sits of from three to six small chambers, with connecting gi
The passageways are about a quarter of an inch in diameter a0
chamb hers from 1 to 3 inches broad and half or three-fourths of :
high, with level or slightly sloping floors and broadly arched,:i':I
The queen, with some of the eggs and younger larvae, is gene
be found in the lowest chamber, but the pupae in their Co 0oo
usually near the top and the remainder of the smaller larva 6aM!
lower down. In addition to the chambers inhabited by the Mant
are in each nest one or more cavities for the storage of the hatrdj
the hones, as it were-of the insects which the colony has..
and eaten. Heads, legs, wings, and- other fragments of
many kinds, including the boll weevil, are here packed in
nately together. The mass is often penetrated by a network.....
cate roots, and is the home of several small animals which .....
tind shelter in the nests of the keleps: a snail,'a worm, a mi
urid, and a thysanuran. A hymenopterous insect was also
which is probably a parasite of the ants. ,
The habit of preserving this useless debris is rendered di e
curious lby the fact that dead ants seem not to be included in.-..
lection, but are carried out of the nest, as is the pgemeraJ:l <
among bees and other related insects. It was thought at e
that some of the captive colonies were resorting to cannibalhSi
somne dead ants were found pulled in pieces like the insects wth

at*yhi ale imtepoogdefrso
bu A
AM ot"teda u fth etLWe h net
Ii vd'a iai tramnho at-iy*ams
nhyddwst rn u hi edat n ar
T't rmter et stebudre ftericoue
foih oflt fteAtsdrn h ore sa
cetilo osdrbehrfns.Teuepcel
wa ut h atta h
prbbydea/o nam

-tavre 4M h anvsao hnteams
W"hg n h olM h ae i o r'u
-7ft seienl ahrnarwoe fh
th uewfrk hi hmesadcodtgte
Whnti1a oie h lt oeswr eoe
14 MprmtMr aievprtoTogetdy
--o a uhmr ei agr nestecloro

At sce h istitmto fdffclyislkl
*1~ fda n&ITe+&itc ol elseeo
th unito oiti h iiw u ti ol
!L w__ diinlbl n egtipratcn
trn rainiss ifiuta nG.4
*hntefis ior a et n.tati6vr
_K teat njh edu osm iaiiyo
-Ohrta h eyloe hl olwihcvr

smaller kinds. Large trees oftenfailed to furnish a single vi
boll as a specimen for our collection of varieties. The wih:
the protecting insects nearer home has been echoed by ma
paper accounts claiming the existence of the same or similart
ants in various parts of Texas, but thus far none of these rep
proved to be based on fact. The kelep is as yet the only ant
to attack and destroy healthy adult boll weevils, just as th.
grown with the protection of the ants is, so far as known, Ai
field culture permanently maintained in the weevil-infested re
Central America.
It was feared at first that the keleps would not be able toe.
nests in other than very loose and granular soils, and particui
they might fail to penetrate hard and tenacious subsoils lib
which underlie some of the cotton fields about Victoria. It sept
ever, that these offer no special difficulties for the ants. SOiq
buried colonies are bringing up earth from a depth of about .i
and in experimental nests constructed of the tough Texas soilj
have given ocular demnonstration of their power to dig out "
ways. The nest of a colony which has been in the ground atI
for a week shows, on being dug out, a nearly vertical gallery,
depth of 14 inches, and the usual lateral chambers. Whethm. .
will survive the floods to which many of the level cotton: ]
Texas are subject, is one of the questions still to be anowdt
(Guatemala they are accustomed to very heavy rains which
saturate the soil, but the drainage is excellent. Possibly, hI
the impervious nature of some of the Texas subsoils? may ai:
tection by holding air in the nests. l
Another equally practical question is frequently asked by,
who call to see the ants. Will not plowing and cultivatio@A
the nests and drive the insects from the cotton ieldsi A
IhIrrow to a depth of from 1 to 3 feet, the shallow PlOW
tinary 'in 'l'exas will cut off only the passage leading to tht:.

.. . . .iiii":...
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S.:.:E :iiEiiiiiiiiiii.

th nswl nobel eabet ee nafwhus
'ne eatcptdo hssorecp h oso h e
Isatal tpe nadcuse.'W eetesraesi
th at aecrflt tr ternssaantsm ii
ofe ttebs.o h otnpatisladflo h
n r3ice hreamr osIn fr aeilcnb
S h rqec ihwihti curdi utml a
0I ht h ns-rnfrternss otevcnt ftecto
baIeuIogo.Teew- -n niainta h n

burw nue h l9,bti ntig h ees;a
lags n oois eedgotweeth otnhdfor
WaGnrlrsnn ol ugs httesih pn
fhIsII bu h ln ol ba lkl obnfta oijr
-gwsfudt niaeta teroso h otno n
t r tak yteat.Te a nwofasalro
J efrswt hi peainNtte itubtesi oltl
daa utcranyb xreeysih n ncmlt

th xesv nuisotn m ytelrerdat
..t al)ntv nTxs..wih_ emtntigt
4 na e fs v rls u r y r ss r o n ig t ee t a c
--e4mnihbtns ftoia onres h nshv h
Okingaset.W e h ete sceradhtte r

nueosuo h otnpansi h ideo h a
'Onn reeig n n h ogrdy n re

,of "Vcoi ii edec t lnte ti eio-oietrmn

bWhile most ant colonies have only one queen, several wweo
with larger numbers, usually two or three, but in one. cmaw:h
another fifteen. Queens occasionally retain one or both of th
and when the colony with the fifteen queens was captured
them had wings, which were lost later. It was thought.
queens might I) young and unfertilized, but large numberis
have been laid and these are now hatching. If the queens wer
utilized the eggs will doubtless, to judge from the analogy of
other ants, produce males, which may be very desirable if it....
prove possible to breed the insects in captivity.
The (IUCCn does not have a special chamber, but walks about
the workers. She was usually found in the lowest chamberi....H
nest, with eggs and young larve, and nearest to the "bon.1i
buint if the lower chambers of the nest were opened first by di"=
from the side, she sometimes took refuge in the upper roomis'
haps escaped into the open air. In several of the nests no qId
were found. In the cages the queens usually remain constantly Ji
lowest chambers and are fed by the workers. Some queesus 4ll
however, to have more of the instincts of workers, and one eor
regularly come to the surface to feed with them. In one instabu
worker was seen carrying a queen about the nest. She had :.b..l
seized by the jaws and her body was waving in the air over S
worker's back. It was feared at first that she was dead, but on :bo
released her actions were normal. '
At Victoria some of the colonies were released by placing the:i "
the ground and inserting a bent cotton stalk on which the inse.cts..
climb out. They immediately began digging a burrow at-the 1.
the adjacent cotton plant, and in the course of two hours the
were ready for the queen and a delegation of two or three of::. I..
brought her out. She returned several times to the undeo
chanimbers of the cage, but was finally aroused sufficiently to .I
along the cotton stalk and out of the jar. The eggs and laWr
already een removed. One of the queens did not go di |
the ground, but climbed the cotton plant and remained there a-..
hour, in spite of many visits from workers who caressed herwvit,
antennae as though to coax her to come down. In some insM
|ueen remained longer in the old nest and was not transfe.l
night, when the colonies seem to be quite as active as in the
perhaps more so. On another occasion the queen was ai
into the new nest by a worker who seized her by the mandi.O
niplItioned above. '
The very strong homing instinct of the ants would have
safe to release them in the plantations for study, even if thei.r.:o*:::E:
...2 ;,:.i

........ .....

I m o-satrnorbcmin mewt
thy-4---m h irta tog
y 4w~lar w thir srrondins. any _._o
bm weonatbeioaebeobywtrThines
edtein u fthi gsbNen o adrcnit
cotnlaIihtese et ak hr a ohstto
YIxlriin h nsfldota neadsra
ovrtetbe evl eeotncuhsug n
-4 t h a ihna iue rtoatrterlaeo
ANm tercpi~
wytoscniu ocnimth rvos-eot htti
prdcosisc.Cmaedwt h evu at
et|pcei mtosaesowaddlbrt, nlk
pryn pnii sad o og eid ut oin
Asatnw*nd n ehn
A a ils"edd rayfrs
WaadbmagtI edmsatcsweiso te
'Aeyar i mtin nda eevl isgeerll sfeaslong

-qit* tl. hatsil fV em iie ols
hoee!saeut o rf upss ic
(M ttm o[a]ngtewevli hni scihn
In Gutmlm evlpae nala tms st
mft anat a lotsr oetkn.I htcu-

being stung, and perhaps while still feigning death to avoid dis
The ants are strong enough to pull the weevils in pieces, but tI
liminary sting facilitates matters by preventing any further 6e1.:iC
escape. It is a well-known fact that insects and spiders which
been stung and paralyzed by predaceous wasps as food for their .
will keep for considerable periods. The ants may utilize thi!ii
of storing food when there is an overabundance; a colony fed .J
last three days exclusively on weevils kills more than it consunm
piles up the victims. .
The fact that the ant uses its sting in capturing its prey
some to confuse it with the stinging ants which are serious pe
sonime tropical countries. Some of these inflict painful injuries ml
much feared. There is, for example, an ant which makes nest:ig
the leaves of the coffee trees in Liberia, rendering it quite impra.i
to gather the crop until the insects are dislodged by fire. the
does not belong, however, to any such category. It is a pre
or hunting ant which very seldom stings except to paralyze it
and thus render the game easier to capture and carry off; but A.,
times it has no inclination to sting and does so only when a.
seized .r injured. The sting, however, is too small and weak to
trate the skin of the inside of the hand, so that the insects can be:
up with entire impunity. If accidentally squeezed between thels.i
or caught under one's collar, a kelep may be able to sting, 0V
wound smarts, in most people, for only a few minutes, and iij|
whole a less formidable injury than a mosquito bite, since the iir4
is less prolonged. i
It should be a sufficient testimony to the peaceable temper4
ants to state that in opening about 100( nests and collecting Hsoi.
ants Mr. l)oyle and 1 were stung only about half a dozen ti
that with no care or precautions. A majority of the ants were s
tip with the lare hands while the disturbed insects crawled at :
ovewr us. Under such circumstances a stinging ant would ..
to wound any foreign object which came in its way, but tAileJd
have apparently no tendency to defend their nest in this :W..

no fadt lm po h adi n tad tlbtte

tod hsoto uistadntt fgt na led
thynvratmtt tn ua ensuls culyhl
ord h erta hymyinefr ihtecliaii
-cto rwt h aretn f-teco i nieygolz,
-wudb!uhmrenal/orc o opr hmwt
'_isc-aigaia ieth odta ihtevgtW
"Sarn ns iete ag e n ocmonaotVco'w 4
spce a iiu epr ek cieyt tn
d sal oifitasrospiflwud copne
fee n vn-eprr aalss ot-
I/suljb tsspro eteiy odfn
isawy//trosnasrugewt h amu ea
th-Uiiato fwic ol e lota wloea
r%, h etuto f h xlwli tef
beiv-ta heklpsaeabet cma as h
4Am o ef-utn nsw'r-a~ eiu et nGa
-ii sotenTxs1ti creyt espoeprag
ca- rv u eletalse omnte o h efctes
may peettegotofnwclnebykllingth
as asH the aperaoegon.Atlatteeaen
Jl -ctesi h aesocpe -yte ees

The present status of the investigation of the boll-weevil 84
snummarized by saying that three of five crucial questions 1h
Imet andI answered, and that two others are still to be reached 'I
no insurmountable obstacles as yet in sight.
(1) An ant has been discovered in Guatemala which attack::
.. :..:.. .........
the'adult boll weevil, and thus holds this 'most in jurious iseij
and permits the regular harvesting of a crop of cotton, evn i
editions favorable to the weevil. .
(2) This ant is carnivorous and predaceous; it injures no S
station, and takes nothing from the cotton plant except the flw
for it on the leaves and floral envelopes.
(3) The habits and temperament of the insect are Ba -th *
capable of domestication, transportation, and ....i.t... .i*t
Gieds of Tean.
.. .. .. ... -: i:'+m m ..
of T.... .. .....

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to~ ~~ I bedtrindae

- 4,Ui
vi srvveth *ntr liat o Txa; ad
"'A*~b,"aine o popgaedinsuffiet umer
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"*tnxt, hwevr.,f te dscoeryof hatmay
e~tv a fth 'Uwei Isol eutInay
tiuo -eot t vi dmg b utra xeiens

ql Psil ta h rtus fteatmaybet
moeefctvsncwie tl imieIoml




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