Aug 7, 2009 | 16
Viruses, grueling journeys, monoculture diets. U.S. honeybees have had it rough lately, and millions have perished from the mysterious colony collapse disorder (CCD). But now some of the nation's bees have a new threat to contend with: ants. And not just any ants. These ants are crazy—Rasberry crazy ants (Paratrenicha species near pubens), to be precise.
Named for their helter-skelter scamper, which contrasts with most ants' standard rank-and-file march, the tiny, invasive ants were first noticed in near Houston in 2002 and have been destroying electronics, pestering picnickers, and gunking up sewage pumps ever since. And now they have started to go after local honeybee hives, according to a recent Associated Press report.
Jul 2, 2009 | 6
Those ants crawling across your picnic table this weekend might be members of a massive, transnational ant mafia, recently reported by researchers in Japan and Spain.
Billions of Argentine ants (Linepithema humile) from North America, Europe and Japan are not only interrelated, but when introduced to foreign cousins they get along like old amigos—an unusual reaction for this otherwise hostile breed—reports the BBC.
The conquering colony is composed of three distinct super-colonies—one in California (560 miles, or 900 kilometers, long), one along the Mediterranean coast (3,700 miles, or 6,000 kilometers, long) and one in Kobe, Japan—that all share similar genetic make-ups, and therefore familiar chemical cues.
May 5, 2009 | 3
Ants are notoriously efficient in their undertaking, carrying off their dead nestmates before the corpses can infect the colony with their pathogens. But how do the worker ants responsible for shuttling their deceased comrades' bodies out of the nest tell live ants from dead?
Some researchers had hypothesized that ants were able to detect breakdown products in decomposing bodies, but a new study in this week's online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA contends that the mechanism is just the opposite: While alive, ants produce chemicals that signal their vitality, signals that quickly vanish on death. In other words, deceased ants are identified by the absence of signs of life—a sort of chemical pulse falling silent—rather than the presence of signs of death.
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