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Science And Nature

Ants are under attack from outsiders in these intimate photos

These images, extracted from new book The Guests of Ants, reveal the behaviour of myrmecophiles, sophisticated organisms from beetles to flies that infiltrate ant colonies to benefit from them

Life 10 August 2022

By Gege Li

New Scientist Default Image

A histerid beetle (Haeterius ferrugineus) is shown among a brood of Formica ant larvae

Pavel Krsensk

ANTS are recognized for their remarkably sophisticated colonies, coordinating their behaviours to transform a pile of dirt right into a complex structure in less than weekly but you can find other sophisticated organisms on the market seeking to infiltrate these carefully setup societies.

The invaders, collectively called myrmecophiles, will be the topic of The Guests of Ants, a fresh book by biologist Bert Hlldobler and behavioural ecologist Christina Kwapich. The pair examine the species that disrupt colonies by firmly taking benefit of them, whether by masquerading as ants or manipulating their behaviour.

These images are extracted from the book. Above, a histerid beetle (Haeterius ferrugineus) is shown among a brood of Formica ant larvae, which it’s been reported to victimize. The beetle in addition has been seen to solicit regurgitated food from the host ants, attracting their attention by waving its forelegs.

Within minutes of exposing a Pheidole dentata nest, the parasitic phorid flies are so thick they are essentially tripping over each other to attack the ants. Brackenrdige Field Lab, Austin, Texas, USA.

Apocephalus, a kind of ant-decapitating fly, shown attacking asoldier Pheidole dentata ant

Pavel Krsensk

Other ant attackers include Apocephalus, a kind of ant-decapitating fly, shown attacking a soldier Pheidole dentata ant, and the larva of the moth Ippa conspersa, seen assaulting an employee of a bunch ant (probably of the species Lasius nipponensis), below.

The larva of Ippa conspersa attacks a worker of the host ant, probably Lasius nipponensis

Larva of the moth Ippa conspersa, seen assaulting aworker of a bunch ant (probably ofthe species Lasius nipponensis)

Kyoichi Kinomura

An ant cockroach in the fungus garden of its leafcutter ant host. Laboratory animal at the University of Texas, Austin, Texas, USA. The myrmecophilous cockroach Attaphila fungicola in the fungus garden of Atta texana. Attaphila migrate to new colonies by mounting alate queens and taking a ride with them when the winged queens leave the next for mating flights.

Attaphila fungicola feeds ona colonys cultured fungus

Alex Wild/

Attaphila fungicola, a cockroach that lives in the nests of the Texas leafcutter ant (Atta texana) and rides on winged queens if they leave the nest for mating, feeds on a colonys cultured fungus in the image above. Below, a Microdon hoverfly larva sits in the nest of the Linepithema oblongum ant. The fly larvae are often ignored and tolerated by the ants, even while they victimize the ants brood of larvae.

FEATURE - The larva of a syrphid Microdon species in the nest of the dolichoderine ant Linepithema oblongum.

Microdon hoverfly larva

Alex Wild/

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