Does the video show ants in a dead end with termites?
A widely circulated video shows two distinct insect lineages, one made up of ants and the other of termites, in what is said to be a defensive “dead end”. A caption accompanying the video states that a “trail of termites and a trail of ants” are protected by a row of soldiers in a “dead end.” At the time of posting, the video had been shared with Reddit and received over 2,000 comments. A Twitter post had also collected over 40,000 views.
Incredible: a trail of termites (top) and a trail of ants (bottom), both protected by a row of their soldiers in a dead end, without a fight.
– Lionel Page (@page_eco) January 27, 2020
Snopes spoke with Brian fisher, entomologist and ant expert with the California Academy of Sciences, who said the footage looked real, adding that he had observed similar behavior. The video shows “main highways” or “road trails” – the top is the termite highway and the bottom is the ant highway, the latter of which can last for days.
“For the ants, the road is used to transport food to the nest and because these goods are valuable, the trails are protected. In particular, the ants defend the trail against other predators that may eat the ants or steal the food, but also against any disturbance that would disrupt the flow of the ants, ”said Fisher.
“A mess of termites walking your freeway will cause a traffic jam and create a costly slowdown.”
Fisher thinks ants are Asian marauding ants (Carebara diversa) and that the video was probably shot in Southeast Asia. Colonies of C. diversa can be composed of 250,000 people and contain, among other roles, small workers and larger soldiers, the latter known for carry their little comrades. The termites in the video are believed to be Longipedittermes longipes, a species endemic to Southeast Asia and known for its unique defensive strategy. When a disturbance or threat is perceived, soldier termites organize themselves into two lateral lanes to defend an interior central lane, allowing worker termites to continue with their tasks.
“All ants and social insects communicate with chemical ‘words’ called pheromones – think of them as a scent. For any social system to work, there has to be a way to communicate, ”said Fisher.
Ants, termites, and other social insects communicate through chemical signals in order to gather food, build their nests, or defend against territorial disputes. Fisher referred to a 2009 report published in Encyclopedia of insects who describes this behavior as a “cooperative defense” to deal with threats. When a threat is recognized, individual ants or termites release a trail of pheromones from specialized glands (the exocrine gland in ants and the sternal gland in termites) as they move from area to area. other. Not only do these trails allow individuals to communicate within their own species, but those left by other insects will also signal the different odors of competitors.
Although ants “love” to eat termites, Fisher adds that L. longipe has “nasty chemical defense”, so ants keep their distance. Additionally, the formation of a trunk trail means the ants are “focused on the path” and return to the nest with collected food.
Many species of termites and ants have developed a series of unique – and equally bizarre – defensive mechanisms to protect themselves. Soldier termites are known to put their oldest individuals on the front lines when defending themselves against carnivorous ants, according to a study published in Biology letters. As the name suggests, a species of ant known as the Colobopsis explodes were nicknamed “exploding ants“For their ability to sacrifice themselves in battle by” breaking their gaster [an abdominal section] and releasing sticky and irritating content… to kill or repel rivals.
The ants have also developed some interesting tricks to make their lives easier. Some species carry large centipedes and earthworms by forming chains composed of over 50 individual worker ants. Named for their ability to build nests, African weaver ants fold the leaves in place, then tie them together by holding and manipulating the silk-producing larvae to “weave” nests together.