Worker ants are the backbone of an ant colony. Without them, the larvae are not able to be fed, unless the queen risks her own survival to find sustenance. Just today, the first worker, known as a nanitic, eclosed from one of the pupa.
Ants eclose as a pale white, due to being covered for so long. However, after staying sheltered in the nest, they begin to develop their dark, familiar colors. Unfortunately, I was not able to witness the nanitic eclose but, hopefully, I will get to see one or two eclosing workers in the years to come.
So earlier this week, I happened to get super lucky and bumped into a wandering queen ant. I suspect she’s of the Camponotus genus, due to being of such large size. She’s already laid a few eggs and has been guarding them ferociously.
But it’s hard to say whether she is fertilized or not. Although she shed her wings already, it is not guaranteed that she is fertilized. It is possible she was unable to mate and simply gave up.
The only way we will know is when the eggs hatch: whether they are winged males or wingless workers.
When you’re a small animal in this big world, there are many dangers waiting behind every corner. So to stay alive to produce the next generation, many animals have developed ways of deterring potential predators or remaining hidden.
The most basic is bright colors. Although easily spotted, having bright colors in the animal kingdom indicates that they are poisonous to eat. Many animals use this method, particularly smaller, more delicate animals such as frogs or insects.
Another way of approaching survival is through fear and imitation. The very popular saying, “Red on yellow, kill a fellow. Red on black, friend of Jack.” is a perfect example of this. Coral snakes are known for their deadly poison and feared by many other creatures, including humans. So to stay alive, some other snake species abuse this common fear by imitating the appearance of the coral snake. Of course, it is not a perfect replica of the original, but it sure does work against most predators that frequently encounter the very deadly coral snake.
Appropriately named the “Dracula ant” after the popular Count Dracula character from the novel “Dracula”, this particular species feasts on the blood of its own kind. Not in the sense of eating ants of its own species but rather ants from their own colony. In order to feed themselves, these ants utilize a form of cannibalism that does not harm or kill the larvae. They chew holes into the larvae and begin to suck out the haemolymph (insect blood). In this way, the Dracula ants are dependent on a constant supply of eggs and must feed these eggs any morsels they find in order to survive.
As one of the most aggressive ant colonies, the Matabele ants obtain their meals primarily from termites. This results in the borderline massacre of any target termite mound and, if allowed to continue on their rampage, the death of the termite colony. But this is not a disorderly mob of ants. Instead, it is a highly organized army.
When a scout has identified a target, a raiding party follows after it in a line. Upon arrival, all of the ants gather around the scout before commencing the attack. The moment all of the ants have arrived, the raid begins. Large, fearsome majors tear away at the defenses of the termite mound while the tiny, nimble minors navigate the mud galleries of the termites, killing anything that comes in their way. When there is no more possible gain to be had, the ants regroup at their original location before making a line back home, carrying away plunder and their wounded comrades.