National Geographic : 1986 Aug
OURCE of constant wonder for Debbie and me, marauder minors working together are able to pin down prey thousands of times their own weight creatures that viewed through the ants' eyes would appear bigger than dinosaurs would look to us. Victims include spiders, cockroaches, crickets, and scorpions. After being restrained by the minor workers, large prey are then bitten repeatedly by medias and majors, and their limbs are torn off. I sometimes ponder the horrors suffered by victims of marauder ants. Without killing them, the ants render them helpless, to be ripped asunder within the ants' nest. While many other ants typically carve up sizable food items into manageable pieces, marauder ants do not waste the time. Dozens of minor workers join forces to carry large seeds (bottom right)and other hefty finds like a lizard's egg (middle right). They do this so efficiently that each ant often seems to bear far more weight than it could carry on its own. Earthworms up to four inches long can demand the attention of as many as a hundred workers. Here, to help carry a worm (below), workers sop up its excess moisture with bits of soil. We were intrigued to note a semblance of traffic rules along the marauder ant trails: Ants returning to the nest tend to travel near the middle, while outbound ants keep to the sides. This is probably because heavy burdens make it difficult for inbound ants to maneuver, forcing outbound ants to the trail's edge. A common adversary along exposed sections of a trail in India, the thief fly (right) sits and waits to snatch a morsel from the ants' collective grip. For defense, fierce minors often ride shotgun on the food.