The Social Environment of an Aggregating, Ant-Attended Treehopper (Hemiptera: Membracidae: Vanduzea arquata)

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Many membracid treehoppers are attended by honeydew-harvesting ants. Ant mutualism often favors group living, which will in turn influence social interactios and communication. I investigated aspects of life history that underlie the social behavior of an aggregating, ant-attended treehopper. The number of adults, and their patterns of distribution, changes dramatically over the course of a season. Despite the relatively low vagility and high persistence in the same clump of host plants, individuals encounter a wide range of social environments. This aggregating species differs from solitary species in the clumped distribution of females, and possibly in the intensity of acoustic competition among males, but both aggregating and solitary species exhibit large temporal changes in density. A high degree of temporal and spatial variation in the social environment is probably characteristic of many insects and may be an important source of selection on insect communication.

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