Army Ant Intruder

Philipp Hoenle2018

The Royal Society

The Royal Society

'This picture was taken during an army ant (Eciton burchellii) nest migration. Army ants have a nomadic lifestyle, and change their nest position frequently. This allows an outside observer to get a unique view of all that is found within the colony. Army ants rely on colony fission to reproduce, and just before they split their nest, they raise broods of males and queens instead of workers. The sexual brood can be distinguished from normal worker brood by it's uniform large size in the later developmental stages. Shown in the picture is such a sexual larva. It's hard to find nests that are in this reproductive stage, and in this case I spent 2 months searching in the Ecuadorian rainforest until I stumbled upon it. Army ants colonies contain a big variety of associated organisms, such as beetles, flies and silverfish. This is because the nest is a secure shelter with an abundance of food. The beetle on the larva (Cephaloplectus mus) is such an army ant parasite. It does not get attacked because it is chemically camouflaged, it essentially has the same colony odor as the army ants. During colony migration, it needs to find a way to follow the ants to their new nest. This individual choose to sit on the larva, and is getting directly transported to the new spot. Post-processing involved cropping.
Technical details: Image was taken with a Nikon D5300 with a Laowa 60 mm f2.8 lens.'

Philipp Hoenle

Institution: Technische Universität Darmstadt

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  • Title: Army Ant Intruder
  • Creator: Philipp Hoenle
  • Date Created: 2018
  • Location Created: Ecuador
  • Provenance: The Royal Society Publishing - Photo Competition 2018
  • Rights: Copyright held by the artist
  • Field: Animal Behaviour, Zoology