Effect of azadirachtin on mortality and immune response of leaf-cutting ants

  • Karina D. AmaralEmail author
  • Lailla C. Gandra
  • Marco Antonio de Oliveira
  • Danival J. de Souza
  • Terezinha M. C. Della Lucia


Leaf-cutting ants are difficult pests to control because they have numerous defense strategies and are highly selective in their plant harvesting choices. The search for effective pest control methods that have minimal negative effects on the environment has been continuous. Azadirachtin, a compound extracted from the neem tree (Azadirachta indica), is a promising alternative for the control of various pests, as it is toxic to some insects but readily degrades in the environment. In this study, we evaluated the effects of azadirachtin on the mortality, through topical exposure to the compound, and immune response, by introducing an artificial antigen into leaf-cutting ants Atta sexdens and Acromyrmex subterraneus subterraneus. Azadirachtin caused death to minor and major workers of both species in a concentration-dependent manner. Topical application of the compound did not diminish the immune response of ants in a microfilament encapsulation assay. Azadirachtin showed no effect on the immune response of workers but increased worker mortality, which indicates its potential as an ant control agent.


Immunity Neem Encapsulation Formicidae Attini Hymenoptera 



We would like to thank the Brazilian National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq) (Research Project no. 140294-2016-3 and 403708-2013-3) and the Minas Gerais Research Foundation (FAPEMIG) for their financial support. This study was financed in part by the Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior – Brasil (CAPES) – Finance code 001. We also thank the Federal University of Tocantins for the research grant provided to DJdS.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departamento de EntomologiaUniversidade Federal de ViçosaViçosaBrazil
  2. 2.Universidade Federal de ViçosaFlorestalBrazil
  3. 3.Universidade Federal do TocantinsGurupiBrazil
  4. 4.Departamento de Biologia AnimalUniversidade Federal de ViçosaViçosaBrazil

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