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It is busy in ant world

March 12, 2020

I am not a rock roller. When looking for invertebrates in the landscape I am reluctant to turn over logs or rocks to find things to photograph. Even if I gently put the rock back where I found it I feel that I am destroying something’s home, let alone the fact that the revealed critters could be squashed. I was therefore a little distressed when moving a load of bricks to find  I had disturbed an ant colony, even more so when it was the ‘nursery’.

Uncovering an ant nursery creates a flurry of activity. Ant eggs, larvae and pupae required specific temperature and humidity conditions to develop properly. If those conditions are compromised i.e. someone moving the bricks, the young are quickly moved to an area with the correct conditions.

Eggs, larvae and pupae

The pictures reveal a whole community at work. Female (wingless) worker ants (black) are assisted by unmated (winged) queens and drones to move the young from one area to another. The photo above shows a nursery of ant pupae. Unlike butterfly pupae, ant pupae develop with the appendages (antennae, legs) free. The eyes are also evident. As the pupae near ‘hatching’ they turn from white to pale grey. Newly hatched ergates (young, female worker ants) are light grey in colour (see photo).

The initial role of a worker ant is to look after the young by providing food or transport. As workers mature the tasks change to more energetic jobs like digging and clearing the nest. In the ‘twilight’ of their lives worker ants are given the more hazardous jobs like defending the colony or foraging for food. If they get killed – well, they were old anyway!

I’m glad our local IGA is a safe place to shop.


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