Ant behavior: September 2011 Archives

I took pictures of 2 Guardian Ants working Woolly Aphids. I am trying to find the name of the ant species that is acting as guardian to this mass of Woolly Aphids, Prociphilus tessellatus, on a growing Alder shrub next to a lake.

The area this Speckled Alder is growing in is very sparse during the winter with snow and ice licking at its branches. Where would these ants keep these aphids over the winter? Do aphids, and ants have sort of anti-freeze in there system that kicks in during the winter?

Since this was on a lake shore, and at the end of a wooded hill to the lake, do I need to be concerned relative to my plants about 500 feet away? If so what do you suggest?

Thank you,
Richard and Meghan
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Dear Richard and Meghan,

Thank you for contacting AntBlog and send such nice photographs. This certainly helps with identifications. Since you are in New England, we reached out to an expert in the area, Stefan Cover, for help. Here is what he said:

"Those ants are Camponotus noveboracensis. The Camponotus are frequent aphid tenders but we know nothing about the relationship between these ants and that particular aphid. No need to worry about plants 500 feet away, though."

In addition, if you would like to read more about what ants do in the winter, please see our previous post here.

Best regards,
Stefan Cover (guest expert), Corrie Moreau & the AntAsk Team

I imagine every ant species in the world follows the same creed, "There's no 'I' in Team," but I can't help but wonder if there
might exist a species that supports, or promotes, individuality? Would scouts searching for food qualify, if not temporarily,
as individuals on a mission (inevitably for the greater good of the colony)?

Also, if you were to choose two of the nastiest, meanest looking, and most aggressive species of ant which would you choose?
Illustrations, if possible, would be great!

Thank you!

Ralph Glenn Styron, III
East Tennessee


Hi Ralph,

The question of individuality of ants is certainly an interesting one, which has definitely been asked before. Here you can find the most recent answer to this question asked by a Bulgarian sociologist. Additionally, this article recently came out which challenges the idea of worker equivalence and suggests experiential knowledge as an important factor in ant colonies.

In terms of a battle royale, I'd be interested in seeing Acanthognathus go after a Ecitoninae. The New World Ecitoninae are known for being the legionary ants par excellence with the mandibles to prove it, but the Acanthognathus are known as "trap-jaw ants", and can produce incredible amounts of force with their mechanism that controls their mandibles. For more info on trap-jaws, check out some of the current research being done in the Suarez Lab at University of Illinois.

Hope this helps!
Max Winston & the AntAsk Team

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