The main goal of today was to collect the pitfall traps we set up two days ago, inventory their contents, and then look for patterns in the data and see whether our hypotheses were confirmed or rejected. We also burned and pillaged some more ant colonies.
The physical legwork of collecting the pitfall traps was far easier than actually inventorying their contents. Most of them were pretty full of insects, and the half that was baited with pee had a powerful odor. We split them up into broad taxonomic categories of Beetles, Ants, Spiders, and Other, then had elected “specialists” (or, in the case of the instructors, actual specialists) divide them further into morphospecies. The resulting data indicated that there was a greater capture rate on the ground than in the trees and that nitrogen baited traps attracted more insects, both of which lined up with our hypotheses.
The burning and pillaging took place along the road, where we chopped down a few Cecropia trees and then cut them open to observe the Azteca ants that have a mutualistic relationship with them. The tree trunk is hollow and segmented; the ants build colonies inside the tree and in exchange for the shelter, protect it from herbivores. Naturally, after destroying their home we also had to eat their children, so we all took turns sampling the brood of eggs and pupae. In the words of Jessie Passman, “It tasted like innocence.”