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Flying Interference

January 26, 2012

Eva Gusnowski

When the competition gets fierce, don’t get mad. Turn into a helicopter.

That’s what the wasp Vespula vulgari does, anyway.

 



A study last year looked at the behavior of insects of disproportionate size: the invasive wasp V. vulgari and an ant from New Zealand, Prolasius advenus. These two species are often found scavenging on the same piece of prey in nature, so a group of biologists (because really, who else would look at this kind of stuff?) looked at whether there was any form of “interference” run between the two species. And wouldn’t you know it, they found some pretty crazy behavior.

The wasps are (much) bigger than the ants, and pretty capable of causing some serious harm. But when both insects are baited with food, the wasps lifted up the ants in their mandibles, and flew them away from the food, dropping them a small distance away, but otherwise unharmed. This behavior increased frequency when more ants were added to the mix, and the wasps dropped the ants further away as well.

 



Remember “Defend your Castle”? Yeah, it’s kind of like that, except the ants don’t explode.

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