Leaf-cutting ants are the main herbivores in the New World tropics. Although the toxicity of seed oils against these ants has been poorly investigated, previous results revealed that seed oils exert considerable toxic activity against these insects. This paper analyzes the toxic action and deterrent properties of castor oil, Ricinus communis L., and physic nut oil, Jatropha curcas L., against workers of the leaf-cutting ant Atta sexdens rubropilosa reared in laboratory. Toxic effect was analyzed by feeding insects artificial diets supplemented with different oil concentrations and direct contact with the two oils. Deterrent activity was assessed by measuring the frequency of attendance to diets during the first 48 h of the ingestion bioassay. Castor oil at 10 and 30 mg/ml and physic nut oil at 5, 10, and 30 mg/ml were toxic by ingestion. In the direct contact bioassay, toxicity was observed for physic nut oil at 0.1 and 0.2 mg/ml, whereas castor oil exerted toxic effects only when the highest concentration was applied. Also, castor oil had a more pronounced deterrent effect against the leaf-cutting ant, compared with physic nut oil. Methods to apply these oils to control these insects are discussed.
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Vol. 106 • No. 2