Ants of the genus Oecophylla are predators of other insects and are able to protect a variety of terrestrial plants against pest insects; however, observations on the ecology of these ants in mangrove forests are lacking. General observations on the ecology of Oecophylla smaragdina were carried out in a Thai mangrove forest to determine if these ants can protect their host plants in less favorable mangrove habitats. Leaf herbivory and the density of O. smaragdina ants were measured on Rhizophora mucronata trees at two sites. The results showed a negative correlation between ant density and herbivory. At both sites, the mean percent damaged leaf area was more than four times higher on trees without ants compared to “ant-trees.” A significant negative correlation was found between tree mean percent leaf damage and the density of ants on the tree. Furthermore, on trees with ants, there was less herbivory on leaves close to ant nests compared to other leaves on the tree. Most damage was caused by chrysomelid beetles (62%) and sesarmid crabs (25%) and both types of herbivory were significantly reduced on ant-trees.
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Vol. 36 • No. 3