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Azteca ants
These ants tend to live only in the hollow stems of cecropia trees, an example of an ant-plant association.

They are aggressive and are especially active at the tips of growing branches, but they lack the painful bites or effective stings characteristic of other Amazon ants like army ants or fire ants.

The ants feed off protein-rich secretions, necessary in their diet, that are produced by special glands at the base of the leaves.

Azteca ants do not sting, but they do bite, and will fiercely protect the tree from potential dangers; for example, they attack other insects that land on the tree and drive them away.

They will cut and kill any vines that begin to climb up the tree; whereas many other trees in the rain forest will be covered in epiphytes or dripping with vines, cecropia trees are generally epiphyte-free and vine-free.

These actions of the azteca ants allow the cecropia tree to stay healthy, grow as fast as possible, and successfully compete with other trees for limited sunlight; in return, the tree provides the protecting ant with a place to live and a source of food.

—Compiled from information located at
The Ant Realm by Ross F Hutchins; Dodd, Mead & Company;
New York; 1967; pages 144-145; 151-154.
This entry is located in the following unit: Ant and Related Entomology Terms (page 4)