Ants are the most abundant visitors to the flowers of Jatropha curcas L., but it is not clear how much they contribute to the pollination of this plant. In this study, we observed floral visitor assemblage and foraging behavior of ants, measured pollen loads carried by ants and deposited on stigmas, and determined the contribution of ants to the female reproductive success of J. curcas through exclusion experiments. Ants were the most abundant pollinators, accounting for 71.03 and 78.17% of total visits at two study sites. Among different ant species, Tapinoma melanocephalum (F.) is always the most abundant and the only common ant species at two study sites, which might suggest its important role in the pollination of J. curcas. Pollen loads carried by ants were significantly different among different species at two study sites. Pollen loads carried by ants increased with increased body length. Although the flowers exposed only to the ants produced less fruit than those exposed only to the winged visitors, ants alone resulted in almost 60% fruit set. Thus, ants could play a major role in the pollination of J. curcas if winged insects are absent.
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Vol. 41 • No. 5