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Antipasto anyone?

November 27, 2015
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Red-headed Spider Ant (Leptomyrmex erythrocephalus) with beetle

In today’s world of fast food and drive-in take-aways it is easy to forget that for some creatures foraging for food is a hard slog. Take ants for example. They are social insects meaning like bees and termites they live in large groups. Each member of the group has a specific role and for some their role in life is to search for food and bring it back to the nest.

Ants may forage hundreds of metres from the nest. For species that are social foragers, that is search for and transport food as a coordinated group, the discoverer of a food source will plot the shortest route back to the nest using the sun to navigate. This ant will leave a scent trail on the ground for other ants to follow, which they detect through their antennae. Other ants following the trail also leave a chemical scent,

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Jumper Ant (Myrmecia pilosula) with dragonfly’s head

thus reinforcing the trail. (I remember as a kid wiping my finger across ant scent trails and watching the insects search around and try to find the continuing trail – obviously in the era before iPads!). Ants may collectively drag the food back to the nest whole or chew it up into manageable pieces. Sometimes the prey is much larger than the ant itself (see photographs).

Bull Ants (pictured below), though social creatures, tend to be more solitary hunters and rely on their excellent (relatively speaking) eyesight to hunt rather than scent. Unlike most ants they will actually follow you with their eyes as you walk past.

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Bull Ant (Myrmecia sp.) with lunch

These insects provide a useful service in cleaning up  the debris of the natural world. (Those waiting for a punch-line are in for an anti-climax).

One Comment leave one →
  1. Susan permalink
    November 27, 2015 10:39 am

    well done! the anti anticlimax!

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