Wednesday, September 28, 2011

God Save the Queen

Hey ya'll

The forest has been finally cut down, and - among the many other creatures that were flushed out from the destruction of their home - was this large, and especially intimidating creature.

Queen of the Oecophylla smaragdina
This, is the queen of Oecophylla smaragdina, also known as the weaver ant - although sometimes confused for the fire-ant due to the colloquial Malay term for it, "semut-api" (literally, fire-ant!). And they are so aptly named, because these ants make their nests not under the ground, but high in the treetops by weaving together bits and pieces of leaves, twigs and debris to form pouch-like nests on the forest canopy. Highly territorial by nature, these ants lack a functional sting but can inflict painful bites with their powerful mandibles (one need only take a look at the mandibles on this queen!) or release a painful squirt of formic acid if threatened! Societal behavior among these species of ants are particularly interesting and work division exists in the structuring of different castes of workers. Major workers - which are significantly larger in size than the minor workers - forage, defend, maintain and expand the colony while minor workers seldom venture far from the nests, tending instead to the larvae or 'milking' their herds of lycaenidae caterpillars or scale insects nearby. I stared at the regal creature momentarily - snapping a few shots as I did so - and she reacted with indignation, gnashing her mandibles and waving her antennae in warning. I decided not to disturb her from her resting spot after all and chose to marvel, instead, at the way nature will always find a way. So this one stretch of forest may have been destroyed, her former colony with it, but with her wings she and her sisters will fly off to other trees, in search of other nesting grounds. The colony would live on, through them.

No comments: