Ants and Their Friends

By Anupum Pant


If you consider the habits, social organization, communities, network of roadways, possession of domestic animals, and counting skills of ants, they are not very different from humans. Yes, ants even domesticate animals. And we’ve talked about their counting skills in the past. Then, I came across a very interesting experiment sir John Lubbock decided to do on ants.


He had in his captivity a number of varieties of ants living in different colonies. One day he saw a group of ants feeding on honey together. He picked twenty five of them and managed to intoxicate them by some method, others were left there, feeding on honey.

Next, he picked twenty five other ants of the same species, from a different colony and intoxicated them too. He then placed all of these 50 intoxicated ants near the honey, in the path which the ants were using to move to and fro from the honey.

He watched them for hours and it was an amazing thing he found. The twenty five ants which belonged to the same colony of ants that were feeding on honey were treated much differently by them, than the other 25 ants of the same species that belonged to a different nest! Somehow they were able to identify the ants of their own nest – differentiate friends from strangers.

Twenty out of the twenty five friend ants (which belonged the same nest) were carried by the honey feeding ants to their home. While about 18 of the other intoxicated stranger ants were picked up and thrown into water.
There were just 5 friend ants which were thrown into water (probably accidentally) and 6 stranger ants which were carried back to home (probably accidentally, again)

Nevertheless, most ants were correctly identified as friends and strangers. Moreover, I think their reaction to drunk friends and drunk strangers was so much like what human beings would do!

Next Experiments

In an experiment which he did later, the researcher tried separating friend ants (of the same nest) for about 4 months. And when they met after 4 months they were able to clearly identify each other. They caressed each other with their antennae.

In other experiments when he introduced a stranger ants in a nest, the strangers were evicted immediately and sometimes even killed.

There are a couple of other interesting experiments he has mentioned in his article here. Do read it whenever you find time. [link]

Mind Controlling Fungus Turns Insects into Zombies

By Anupum Pant

If you have played the game Last of Us on PS3, you’d know that the game is set in a time 20 years after a fungal-based, brain-altering pandemic has taken over the world and infected nearly 60% of the world’s population. Sounds too fictional. Right? Well, of course the game is fictional, but the brain-altering fungus parasite is not very far from reality.

The real fungus, Cordyceps isn’t really fatal to Human beings. However, there’s always a chance. In a very absurd way they kill insects. In fact their life cycle is totally dependent on insects. And a there are more than 1000 different kinds of these fungi, each one of which specializes on one kind of insect. What these fungi do to insects is something very incredible.

The fungus infects insect brains and turns them into zombies! Something similar to what this wasp does to cockroaches. This is how it works…

When an insect comes in contact with the spores of this parasitic fungus, they start acting in a weird manner. That is because the fungus affects its brain and turns it into a zombie, an insect zombie which takes directions from a fungus. The infected brain tells the insect to climb up. At some point, high up on a tree or plant, the insect dies and the fungus hollows the body and starts growing a shoot out of the insect. It’s bizarre to watch! (see the video below)

The fungus programs the brain to make the insect move up because its life-cycle actually benefits from it. The higher the insect goes, the better its spores can spread and can have a better reach.

The fungus is like a nature’s way of saying to an insect species that your population has reached very high levels.

Hit like if you learnt something.

The Woodpecker Tongue is a Crazy Weird Instrument

By Anupum Pant

Almost everyone who has learned it in school or has experienced a sleepless night listening to a woodpecker make that tat-tat noise, knows that their straight and strong beaks, are indeed able to make heads turn. These chisel-like tools help them to pierce into dead wood where they may find their food – insects and larvae. They also use these bores as nesting cavities. But that isn’t the only fascinating thing about a woodpecker.

Oftentimes, a woodpecker has to use its secret tool to deal with annoying little bugs that evade the reach of its beak by moving further into a bore – The crazy woodpecker tongue.

Annoying bugs

Present just behind a thick layer of wood are these wood-boring beetles that a woodpecker would love to eat. While hunting for these kind of grubs the strange potential of the woodpecker’s tongue can be noticed. These beetles drill several inches deep into the bore. The woodpecker’s beak helps the bird breach into their homes, but it is only the woodpecker’s tongue that is able to catch and retrieve bugs from deep inside the bores.

Woodpecker’s tongue

A woodpecker’s tongue can reach up to 3 times the length of its beak. It is thin like a spear, and on it are tiny hooks facing up and backwards. The harpoon like tongue can move at incredible speeds and serves two functions – listening and striking. Yes, the tongue can actually listen and track insects inside the bore.

The hooks on its tongue are covered in sticky saliva. This combination of hooks and saliva does not leave a chance for the insects to wriggle off once they are pierced. When the woodpecker’s bill opens up the beetle home, it extends its tongue and probes around to track them. If it locates grubs, the woodpecker skewers the prey with its tongue, the tip of which is hard and sharp. After the tip penetrates the larvae body, the tiny rear-facing hooks hold them in place as the woodpecker retracts its tongue.

Okay! the last mindblow

Sometimes the woodpecker tongue is so long that it forks in the throat, goes below the jaw, then behind the head and finally over the top of its brain, where it rejoins and goes into the right nostril.
Have a nice look at the picture below till I rest my brain for tomorrow’s article.

woodpecker tongue
Woodpecker tongue. Source: Hilton Pond
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