Maziarz M., Broughton R.K., Hebda G., Wesołowski T. 2018. Occupation of wood warbler Phylloscopus sibilatrix nests by Myrmica and Lasius ants. Insectes Soclaux.
Bird nests can provide habitats for various invertebrates, including ectoparasites, scavengers, and predators. Records of ants associating with active bird nests mostly involve the insects searching for food, with some exceptional records of ants raising their broods (eggs, larvae or pupae) within songbird nests in nest-boxes or tree cavities. We present data for a previously undocumented, but apparently regular, occurrence of ants and their broods within the active nests of a songbird, the wood warbler Phylloscopus sibilatrix (Bechstein, 1793), which builds domed nests on the ground in European forests. Systematic recording found ants, mostly Myrmica ruginodis Nylander, 1846, in 43% of 80 wood warbler nests in the primary forest of Białowieża National Park (Poland) during the springs of 2016–2017, including ant broods in 30%. Ad hoc records from this site in 2004–2015 found ants in a further 29% of 163 nests, including broods in 20%, indicating a regular association. However, examination of 37 nests from secondary forest in Switzerland and Great Britain founds ants in only 14%, and broods in just 5%. We discuss the potential drivers and mechanisms of the observed association between breeding wood warblers and ants, including the apparent difference in frequency between the primary and secondary forests.