by Angela Qian
Our story begins on the dusty lands of New Mexico. A group of scavengers from a honeypot ant colony are foraging amongst the sand and gravel for a potential meal. Suddenly, they notice a hole in the earth; it’s another honeypot colony. When two ant colonies clash, war is inevitable. Now, these two honeypot colonies, who have existed for ages in mutual ignorance, are about to engage in a hard and bloody battle.
The Reason For War
In a way, ants are very similar to humans. They too form large civilizations with designated roles for each ant. But, with large civilizations comes conflict. According to the Smithsonian, the larger a group of organisms get- in this case the two ant colonies-the more aggressive these organisms will respond to outsiders. A colony will do everything in it’s power to support it’s reign. This means eradicating potential rivals. Yet, in all honesty, “war” may not be the best word to use when describing conflicts such as two clashing ant colonies. When two colonies clash, which ever colony that has the most inhabitants will subsequently have a higher chance of winning. This causes a lot of battles to be rather one-sided.
The Battle at Hand
With the newly emerged threat of an enemy colony, the first group of scavengers move in on their adversaries. Soon, more ants from the original colony will arrive to help eliminate the enemy colony by following pheromone trails left by the first group of scavengers. The battle is fierce, with clashing mandibles chewing to dismember limbs, sever antennae, and guillotine heads.
The Spoils of War
Eventually, the invading ants take out the enemy colony. The scavengers dispatch the queen of these outsiders (usually by beheading), and the winning colony gets to relish in the spoils of war. Protein rich larvae will be taken back to the colony for feeding, along with the repletes. Repletes are specialized workers who are used as living pantries. These workers, gorged by their peers on honey and nectar, have abdomens the size of marbles. These repletes feed the colony in times of food shortages, such as winter. According to a study by Conway, John R, around half of a honeypot ant colony is comprised of repletes.
Are you a high school student who dreams of a life in science, technology, engineering, art & design, math, or all of the above?
Science World is now accepting applications for our innovative multi-year after-school program Future Science Leaders. Successful applicants will attend weekly sessions with their science-loving peers, engage with STEAM professionals and complete challenging hands-on activities and projects.