ANTS – Chemical Warfare

The sounds we’re listening to are being made by a colony of ants. The life of most kinds of ants is one of continuous combat, complete with front line troops and sometimes even chemical warfare. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History.

“Ant battles, on the larger scale, consist of masses of workers recruited by scouts to the combat zone, confronting one another in direct combat, with the colonies that are able to assemble the largest force of workers usually overwhelming the others and winning the battle.”

Edward Wilson is honorary curator in Entomology at Harvard University.

“In some cases the combat can be somewhat more long distance, with the spraying of chemical substances. A lot of chemical warfare goes on, either sprayed out as a poison from the tip of the abdomen or extruded from glands at the base of the mandibles so that its an auxiliary weapon. Or it’s oozed out of various pores of the body and smeared on the enemy.”

Not a pretty picture, but such is warfare in the world of the ant.

“There are certain ants recently discovered in tropical Asia which have their bodies almost filled with a huge gland. These glands are filled with a sticky, toxic material and in extreme combat and stress, the ants contract their body wall violently causing the body wall to rupture and the glands to explode and spray toxic material over the enemy, so they are walking grenades.”

Our thanks to Bernie Krause for the ant recordings. Additional funding for Pulse of the Planet has been provided by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

ANTS - Chemical Warfare

Ants live a life of almost constant battle. They fight, raid their enemies' colonies, and even use chemical weapons.
Air Date:11/01/1999
Scientist:
Transcript:

The sounds we're listening to are being made by a colony of ants. The life of most kinds of ants is one of continuous combat, complete with front line troops and sometimes even chemical warfare. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History.

"Ant battles, on the larger scale, consist of masses of workers recruited by scouts to the combat zone, confronting one another in direct combat, with the colonies that are able to assemble the largest force of workers usually overwhelming the others and winning the battle."

Edward Wilson is honorary curator in Entomology at Harvard University.

"In some cases the combat can be somewhat more long distance, with the spraying of chemical substances. A lot of chemical warfare goes on, either sprayed out as a poison from the tip of the abdomen or extruded from glands at the base of the mandibles so that its an auxiliary weapon. Or it's oozed out of various pores of the body and smeared on the enemy."

Not a pretty picture, but such is warfare in the world of the ant.

"There are certain ants recently discovered in tropical Asia which have their bodies almost filled with a huge gland. These glands are filled with a sticky, toxic material and in extreme combat and stress, the ants contract their body wall violently causing the body wall to rupture and the glands to explode and spray toxic material over the enemy, so they are walking grenades."

Our thanks to Bernie Krause for the ant recordings. Additional funding for Pulse of the Planet has been provided by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.