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Tuesday, May 29

Tandem running, a new mystery behind ant lines

 Lining up ants are a usual sight that has amazed everybody during their childhood days. While changing environmental conditions and increased competition trigger nest relocation among ants, how they carry out the logistics of relocating hundreds of members and resources to the new nest is very interesting.

It is widely known that the ants keep the line with the help of trails marked by chemicals from their body called pheromones to reach the destination. However, a new research has revealed another method, called tandem running found among Diacamma indicum ants -a species found in Sri Lanka and India - being used in colony relocation.
Diacamma indicum, ants, tandem running, ant behavior, ant colony relocation

Tandem run is a reason why you find ants doing something like shaking hands with each other. To initiate a tandem run, a leader ant, often an adult, will repeatedly make antenna contact with a potential follower. Then turning around by 180 degrees, the tandem leader will provide her abdomen to the follower. The follower will then touch the abdomen of the leader with the antennae signaling that she is ready for the move. Thus the pair moves to the nest all the while keeping continuous physical contact.

You believe it or not, ant colonies were found taking almost same time to relocate to new nests in this way, no matter what distance they cover. The study found one ant colony which moved to a shorter distance destination taking as much time as another which traveled to a distance six times farther. To adjust this, during long distance relocations, more worker ants took the role of leaders initiating tandem run which in effect made the relocation faster for the whole colony.

It was also observed that D. indicum ants allow only the broods and males to be followers, and they never swap leaders and followers during a tandem run.

Interestingly, D. indicum ants don’t have an egg-laying queen, unlike many other ant species. The egg-laying role is taken by a worker ant called gamer-gate. During relocation, the gamer-gate was either tandem run or self explored to the new nest without company of retinue, unlike the queen ants in other species.

Friday, May 25

Why do honey bees flock to waste water?

Honey Bees consider animal urine mixed water as their 'Complan', says a recent research

Honey bees are known to feed on nectar and pollen from flowers. But ever heard of them sucking waste water, that too from animal dung? A recent observation on honey bees (Apis dorsata)has revealed that they tend to flock on water from animal waste found in the sewage tracts of animal sheds mainly to meet their nutritional needs.

Apis dorsata, honey bee feeding animal waste
Apis dorsata feeding on waste water from animal sheds
Experiments have revealed that bees often show some attraction towards water with animal waste content . An average of 33.33 percent bees were attracted towards water with animal waste content in the experiment while only 20 percent of them were attracted to pure water. Similarly, stingless bees which belong to subfamily Meliponinae are also known to feed on feces and decaying flesh, which is less expected from such 'sweet' insects.

The answer to the unexpected phenomenon lies in the influence certain amino acids have, in the normal growth of a bee. Bees need at least ten different amino acids for their normal growth. Apart from that, they need water and salts to meet their natural growth requirements.

Thus the usual nature of animal urine gives a complete planned food option to bees as it contains sodium (Na+), potassium (K), chloride, magnesium (Mg2+), Calcium (Ca2+) ions, organic molecules like urea, creatinine and uric acid. Other substances like carbohydrates, enzymes, fatty acids, hormones, pigments and mucins are also present in small amounts.

So, in short, honey bees consider animal urine mixed water as a health drink - their 'Complan' luring them to to flock on animal waste just as they flock on to flowers for honey.

Did you ever notice such bizarre insect behavior? Let us know in the comments.