Manipulating tropical fire ants to reduce the coffee berry borer.
1. The coffee berry borer Hypothenemus hampei (Coleoptera, Curculionidae) (Ferrari) is the most important pest of coffee production worldwide. 2. The hypothesis that the tropical fire ant, Solenopsis geminata Westwood, indirectly protects the coffee berry borer by suppressing other ant species that are the coffee berry borer's primary predators was tested. 3. It was found that removing S. geminata from coffee plots significantly increased the disappearance of adult coffee berry borer beetles from coffee berries compared with control plots. An average of 6% of beetles disappeared from plots with S. geminata whereas 23% of beetles disappeared from plots from which S. geminata was removed. This pattern was observed on two shade coffee farms with marked differences in ant species composition, one in the rainforest in central Costa Rica and one in the cloudforest in northwest Costa Rica. 4. If the results of this small-scale study can be replicated on the farm level, then S. geminata suppression may represent a new management technique for the coffee berry borer throughout Central and South America.