Publications


Helder Hugo, Marcel G. Hermes, Bolivar R. Garcette-Barrett, Iain D. Couzin (2020) First evidence of wasp brood developments inside active nests of a termite with the description of a previously unknown potter wasp species. Ecology and Evolution. Early View in https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.6872

ABSTRACT – Potter wasps (Vespidae: Eumeninae) are known to exhibit not only sophisticated preying strategies but also a remarkable ability to manipulate clay during nest building. Due to a mixture of plasticity in building behaviour and flexibility in substrate preferences during nest-building, the group has been reported nesting in a variety of places, including decaying nests abandoned by termite species. Yet, evidence of wasps nesting inside senescent termite mounds is poorly reported and, to date, accounts confirming their presence inside active colonies of termites are absent. Here, we address a novel intriguing association between two species from the Brazilian Cerrado: a previously unknown potter wasp (nest invader) and a termite species (nest builder). Besides scientifically describing Montezumia termitophila sp. nov. (Vespidae: Eumeninae), named after its association with the termite Constrictotermes cyphergaster (Silvestri, 1901) (Termitidae: Nasutitermitinae), we provide preliminary information about the new species’ bionomics by including (i) a hypothetical life cycle based on the evidence we collected and (ii) a footage showing the first interaction between a recently ecloded wasp and a group of termites. In doing so, we attempt to provoke relevant discussions in the field and, perhaps, motivate further studies with the group. Finally, we describe a solution to efficiently detect and sample termitophilous species from termite nests, an intrinsic yet challenging task of any studies dealing with such a cryptic biological system.


Helder Hugo, Paulo F. Cristaldo, Og DeSouza (2020) Nonaggressive behavior: a strategy employed by an obligate nest invader to avoid conflict with its host species. Ecology and Evolution; 10: 8741-8754 https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.6572

ABSTRACT – In addition to its builders, termite nests are known to house a variety of secondary opportunistic termite species so‐called inquilines, but little is known about the mechanisms governing the maintenance of these symbioses. In a single nest, host and inquiline colonies are likely to engage in conflict due to nestmate discrimination, and an intriguing question is how both species cope with each other in the long term. Evasive behaviour has been suggested as one of the mechanisms reducing the frequency of host‐inquiline encounters, yet, the confinement imposed by the nests’ physical boundaries suggests that cohabiting species would eventually come across each other. Under these circumstances, it is plausible that inquilines would be required to behave accordingly to secure their housing. Here, we show that once inevitably exposed to hosts individuals, inquilines exhibit nonthreatening behaviours, displaying hence a less threatening profile and preventing conflict escalation with their hosts. By exploring the behavioural dynamics of the encounter between both cohabitants, we find empirical evidence for a lack of aggressiveness by inquilines towards their hosts. Such a nonaggressive behaviour, somewhat uncommon among termites, is characterised by evasive manoeuvres that include reversing direction, bypassing and a defensive mechanism using defecation to repel the host. The behavioural adaptations we describe may play an important role in the stability of cohabitations between host and inquiline termite species: by preventing conflict escalation, inquilines may improve considerably their chances of establishing a stable cohabitation with their hosts.


Dany S.S.L. Amaral, Madelaine Venzon, Helder Hugo, Edison R. Sujii, Jason M. Schmidt, James D. Harwood (2016) Non-crop plant communities conserve spider populations in chilli pepper agroecosystems, Biological Control, Volume 103, Pages 69-77, ISSN 1049-9644. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocontrol.2016.07.007

ABSTRACT – Habitat management enhances heterogeneity in agroecosystems and also has the potential to increase recruitment of spiders, which can improve the biological control services afforded by these important predators. A paucity of studies has documented the associations of spiders with plant communities or the efficacy of non-crop plants for increasing the density and diversity of spider populations. Here we examined natural associations of spiders with native non-crop plants within Brazilian chili pepper agroecosystems. Following this characterization, a manipulative experiment was undertaken at two locations to identify the effects of non-crop plant strips and borders on spider community structure. The composition of native plants altered the community of spiders. The abundance of these predatory spiders was highest on Asteraceae. Spatial Analyses by Distance Indices (SADIE) determined that there was significant aggregation of spiders in chili pepper fields under these plant management strategies. Although incorporating this habitat management approach reduced the overall cropping area, the corresponding increase in generalist predator abundance could offset costs by improving the natural control of pests. This study revealed associations between native plants and spider communities, and how these help to conserve predator biodiversity. Targeted management of native non-crop plants promote the abundance of natural enemies and enhances biological control in chili pepper agroecosystems.

Other scientific productions

Helder Hugo, Iain D. Couzin (2019) Movement patterns and collective behaviour in socially complex groups. Poster presented in: Gordon Research Conferences – 2019 Movement Ecology of Animals. Lucca, Italy. DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.16499.78886

Helder Hugo, Vivek H. Sridhar, Danilo Ribeiro, Og DeSouza, Iain D. Couzin (2018) Collective behaviour and decision-making in a social insect society. Poster presented in: 2018 Conference on Collective Behaviour, Trieste, Italy. DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.16499.78886

Helder Hugo (2018) From Random to Coordinated Collective Motion in Termites. Invited talk presented in: 18th IUSSI – International Union for the Study of Social Insects, Guarujá, Brazil.

Helder Hugo (2016) Cohabitation and conflict in cohabiting termite species [M.Sc. thesis]. Federal University of Viçosa, Minas Gerais, Brazil.

Helder Hugo, Raphael Silva Caetano, Adalberto Jose Santos (2009) Riqueza e composição em espécies de aranhas errantes em diferentes fitofisionomias do Parque Municipal das Mangabeiras, Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais. In: IX Congresso de Ecologia do Brasil, 2009, São Lourenço. Anais IX Congresso de Ecologia do Brasil – 2009