The Mystery of the Headless Ant

While in Florida earlier this year I turned over a leaf to find this gruesome scene:

A worker of the Florida Carpenter Ant (Camponotus floridanus) stationed along a leaf vein among a herd of scale insects.  Except, without a head.

I honestly don’t know what happened to the poor ant.  Any ideas?

13 thoughts on “The Mystery of the Headless Ant”

  1. I have seen a number of Pogos wandering around this summer -sans heads. Culprit? Not confirmed but almost certainly other ants.

  2. I have no idea what happened to her head, but the discoloration on the leaf certainly adds to the disturbingness factor – it gives the illusion of a pool of blood gushing onto the ground after she was decapitated.

  3. I believe I read somewhere that Hannibal Lecter was last seen in a tropical clime. Or maybe that was in a movie…

    Thanks to Tim for pointing out the same disturbing illusion I saw while looking at that photo.

  4. At first glance and before reading your description, I thought this was going to be about a spider mimic of C. floridanus. But the truth is, in the words of Jane Goodall, simply horrifying! The illusion created by the leaf mine – ach! – I can hardly stand to look at it.

  5. Tom Eisner observed millipedes of the species Narceus gordanus were also found decapitated at Archbold Field Station. In the millipedes’ case, they were found without not only their heads but also their first four segments. (FYI: Narceus gordanus millipedes have defense glands on segments posterior to the fourth.) He predicts that it’s a smart vertebrate (and not a phengodid) who’s circumventing the defenses of the millipede by simply biting off the tasty end! He names the mystery, “Robespierre.”

  6. Hi there Alex! I’ve always been interested in insects and now I have been photographing them. I recently (and randomly) decided to start my own ant farm on my desk and found a new colony of spine waisted ants. Now that I have started the ant farm, I have been noticing more and more different species of ants, and different types of ant behaviors, in my yard. I used to just dismiss every ant as just another ant, but now I have been looking more closely at the ones I find, and I’ve ended up finding some really cool things!

    So yesterday, I lifted up a piece of wood and found a carpenter ant under it, but it didn’t react at all to the wood being moved which I found unusual. When I picked it up, it’s head literally fell off and crumbled into pieces between my finger, and when I tried dropping the ant assuming it was just a dead ant, the body was clinging upside down to my finger! I took a video of it reacting to being poked by an unbent safety pin (There’s also a closeup picture of the ant underneath):

    I found this article while I was looking to see if there were any other pictures of this online and thought it was interesting that we both photographed headless carpenter ants. Did you ever figure out what happened to it?

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