Naturally Occurring Vegetation Connectivity Facilitates Ant-Mediated Coffee Berry Borer Removal

Sanya Cowal, Jonathan R. Morris, Estelí Jiménez-Soto, Stacy M. Philpott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Vegetation connectivity is an essential aspect of the habitat complexity that impacts species interactions at local scales. However, agricultural intensification reduces connectivity in agroforestry systems, including coffee agroecosystems, which may hinder the movement of natural enemies and reduce the ecosystem services that they provide. Ants play an important role in regulating the coffee berry borer (CBB), which is the most damaging coffee pest. For arboreal ant communities, the connections between trees are important structures that facilitate ant mobility, resource recruitment, foraging success, and pest control ability. To better understand how connectivity impacts arboreal ants in coffee agroecosystems, we conducted an experiment to assess the impact of artificial (string) and naturally occurring vegetation (vines, leaves, branches) connectivity on Azteca sericeasur behavior on coffee plants. We compared ant activity, resource recruitment, and CBB removal rates across three connectivity treatments connecting coffee plants to A. sericeasur nest trees: vegetation connectivity, string, and control (not connected) treatments. We found higher rates of ant activity, resource recruitment, and CBB removal on plants with naturally occurring vegetation connections to A. sericeasur nest trees. Artificial connectivity (string) increased the rates of resource recruitment and CBB removal but to a lesser extent than vegetation connectivity. Moreover, vegetation connectivity buffered reductions in ant activity with distance from the ant nest tree. These results reinforce how habitat complexity in the form of vegetation connectivity impacts interspecific interactions at the local scale. Our results also suggest that leaving some degree of vegetation connectivity between coffee plants and shade trees can promote ant-mediated biological pest control in coffee systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number869
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Aztecasp
  • agroecology
  • ants
  • coffee berry borer
  • connectivity
  • habitat complexity
  • pest management
  • vegetation structure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Insect Science


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