National Geographic : 1974 Jul
FRANTIC CHASE ERUPTED when I dropped a live roach into the colony. Forager workers alert for food chased the insect back and forth. The roach fought back by spray ing some substance at its pursuers. It was obviously irritating, causing the ants to shake their heads and rub their jaws on the ground. Finally one ant, biting repeatedly at the roach's legs, brought it down. She locked her victim in a death grip (left), then flipped her abdomen forward and injected venom with her retractable stinger, magnified five times (below). The roach died with in ten minutes and the ant began extract ing its juices. Waiting for the poison to take effect, the lady very carefully cleaned herself (lower left). She drew each antenna through a comb-and-brush device on her front legs and then pulled each leg through her retractable mouth parts. I noticed that when an ant has nothing else to do, it grooms itself. "What happens below ground," I asked Dr. Taylor, "when an enemy ap proaches, such as an anteater?" "Thump loudly on the top of the colony case, and you'll see." The reaction was instant. A force of guards sallied forth to do battle and to sacrifice themselves for the colony if nec essary. Simultaneously the queen headed for the safety of the depths, and nurse workers began carrying the pupal co coons to the bottom of the nest. Last to be saved were the larvae. "In order to more rapidly replace guards killed in defense of the colony," explained Dr. Taylor, "it's more important to save the teen-agers than the infants."