Silk. From Ants?

Silk. From Ants?

New Zealand Australia 772

Australia. These are the coolest ants I have ever seen. This photo was taken in a rain forest near the Great Barrier Reef in northern Australia. Known as weaver ants, they live in trees, in nests made of leaves woven together with silk. Silk? Where in the world do they get it? I thought only silkworms made silk.

This is where the story gets interesting. Adult ants can’t make silk (well of course I knew that. Not!). But the larvae produce it (of course). So the adults grab a larvae and gently (so as not to kill it) squeeze the larvae which secretes a drop of silk. The silk is deposited along the edge of the leaves to make them stick together (kind of an ant version of super glue).

And a remarkable cooperative behavior is seen among the ants when constructing their nests. Not only do they use the larvae as tools to stick the leaves together, they pull the leaves closer to each other by forming ant chains. They grab the ant in front of them around the waist and form long lines stretching between leaves and pull to force the leaves together.

Large colonies can involve multiple trees, numerous nests and millions of ants. So ants exhibit some very cool, complex social behaviors. And some folks eat the ants as part of their diet. I am told they taste like lemon. Think I’ll pass on this one. Athough as a flavoring for bird drop soup, maybe….