Ant pupae secrete psychoactive milk for other ants

(ORDO NEWS) — Although insect pupae are rather inert, in an ant colony that works as a single organism, even they found a thing to do.

In the process of metamorphosis, they secrete a nutrient fluid that adult ants and growing larvae feed on. Moreover, if there are no eaters nearby, the chrysalis may even die.

ince observing a lively ant colony cannot always reveal all the subtleties of interactions between insects, scientists sometimes have to isolate the ants.

During one of these experiments, researchers from Rockefeller University (USA) drew attention to a strange liquid that accumulated around isolated ant pupae.

Normally, metamorphizing insects do not secrete fluids, and nothing like this has been observed before, including in ants.

If the researchers did not touch the liquid, sooner or later it would overgrow with fungi and kill the pupa. However, if the liquid was carefully removed, the pupae survived and developed into adult ants.

It turned out that inside the colony, the liquid secreted by the pupae is a welcome delicacy for adult ants and growing larvae, which make sure that the pupae always remain dry.

The researchers also unraveled the secret of the origin of this “milk”: it is part of the processed internal tissues of the larva, which in other insects are stored inside the pupa and go to build the body of an adult insect, and in ants they stand out, attracting comrades in the colony.

The composition of the “milk” is rich in nutrients and psychoactive substances, and in composition it resembles royal jelly , with which the bees feed the larvae of the future queens of the swarm.

It is curious that if for adult ants “milk” is only a treat, then young larvae need it and usually die if they do not receive it within the first four days of life.

It is not yet known whether the amount of “milk” drunk by the larva affects its subsequent fate, as it happens with bee larvae: it is possible that those ants that receive more “milk” grow into larger soldiers or even breeding females.

It is also not entirely clear what is the value of “milk” for adults and how exactly this strange feature of ant pupae arose – inert creatures that tied together all parts of a lively ant colony.


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