[ExI] Termite-hunting ants rescue injured comrades

spike spike66 at att.net
Thu Apr 13 20:46:02 UTC 2017

-----Original Message-----
From: extropy-chat [mailto:extropy-chat-bounces at lists.extropy.org] On Behalf Of BillK
Sent: Thursday, April 13, 2017 11:43 AM
To: Extropy Chat <extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org>
Subject: [ExI] Termite-hunting ants rescue injured comrades

New research finds that Matabele ants routinely carry injured nestmates back to the nest to recover


Research published today in Science Advances reveals that specialist termite predator the African Matabele ant (Megaponera analis) operates a medevac service for its soldiers during raids on termites.


“We have observed helping behaviour vis-à-vis injured animals for the first time in invertebrates,” say Frank.




Hi BillK, thanks for this.

What I would like to learn is if this is a carnivorous ant species, and if so, do we know for sure they aren't taking the wounded ants back in order to devour their fallen comrades.  I have been thinking of setting up a camera suited to photographing ants in order to determine if they ever do anything like this.  I fear they do, at least some species.  It is entirely plausible that they are taking the injured ants back to a hospital but I want to see if I can record the event.

For the amateur entomologist, these tiny cell phone cameras are a gift: they are cheap, they can make video of tiny things.  I want this camera to study an intriguing theory regarding how to explain why Australian bees seem to be more resistant to Varroa mites.  Perhaps the Australian bees have better allogrooming, the term for bees plucking mites off of each other in the hive.  The notion is that the Australian bees crush or otherwise damage the mites with their mandibles, whereas more susceptible bee subspecies remove the mite and subsequently drop the undamaged beast, which then falls upon the allogroomer's sister, infecting her.

A commercial beehive is a wooden box with hanging frames, a bit the old-time hanging folders in a "filing cabinet."  Ask your grandparents if you have never seen one of those.  In a commercial hive, all the honeycombs are built on vertical surfaces, which means any varroa mite plucked from any bee would be dropped upon another bee.  So what if... a subspecies with only a slightly more powerful mandible did crush the mites?  The lower bees would be pummeled by severely damaged mites, which would resumably be harmless.  Those colonies with the mite-crushers would soon be selected differentially for survival, which could explain the Australian bees greater resistance.  Ja?

OK so we have commercial hives designed for ease of inspection and extraction of honey (don't eat it, dammit!) but they don't need to be made that way.  They were designed for ease of manufacturing back in the days with things were built by hammering wood together.  But now we have all these alternatives, such as... plastic hemispherical dome beehives.  We could make these things cheaply.  Then the bees make their honeycombs on a hemispherical surface hanging upside down, allogrooming, the mites don't fall upon the ladies below, they fall to the bottom of the hive, where a beekeeper could arrange a sticky surface where the parasitic bastards would perish.

Before you blow off this idea, keep in mind that a commercial hive costs about 60 bucks to build typically.  But we could make plastic hemisphere hives very cheaply, perhaps with a reflective outer surface to keep the temperature down, with the option of a hemispherical black cover in the winter to hold in some heat.  We could make these for less than 60 bucks, and they would be easier to control mites.  Ja?  It would be bigger than a basketball but smaller than about a meter diameter.  Any plastics manufacturing hipsters please who could estimate the cost of making something like that in quantity?  It wouldn't be any good for extracting honey, or for loading on a truck in order to smuggle dope, but we don't need to be doing either of those things anyway.  It would be for keeping bees on one's own property.

We could come up with a cutesy name for them: Beegloo?  Beodesic dome?  Beekminster Fuller hive?


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