May 28, 2024

I, Science

The science magazine of Imperial College

Andrew Purcell

Earlier this month, researchers from New Zealand announced that they had observed wasps lifting up ants and carrying them away from food. This video footage also shows how the wasps hurl the ants away in their desperate attempts to monopolise the food source.  Although this video was made in a laboratory environment, the ant-dropping behaviour was also observed under natural conditions between a wasp and a group of ants foraging in leaf litter for mealworms.

This research was published in Biology Letters.

Julien Gangier, one of the paper’s authors said: “Particular attention was paid when a wasp removed an ant by flying backward and dropping it away. The wasps dropped their competitors away even when bait stations were frequented by several tens of ants.” Despite this, the researchers found that nearly 90% of the ants removed were uninjured by the activity.

Did you know? Male wasps don’t have a sting, only females do. In female wasps, the sting is also the ovipositor (this is the female’s sex organ as well). Because of their stinging ability, it is always female wasps which are assigned to protect the nest.