Eciton enjoying a light snack

Along the margins of a raid, Eciton hamatum workers create a cache of captured ant brood

In the comments, myrmecologist James Trager notes:

A serious question, though, have you ever seen these soldiers eat? I have not and always wondered how they go about it.

Come to think of it, I don’t have much recollection of seeing any army ants eating.

I have never seen a soldier or a queen army ant actively feeding. But last month I did catch some hungry Eciton hamatum workers taking a snack from a cache of pilfered ant brood:

Army ants lap up spilled hemolymph from a captured larva.
The ants pierce the integument of a Pheidole pupa to drink the hemolymph.
Within minutes other ants join in and the pupa is reduced to a dessicated shell

Army ants live such fast paced lives that surely they must feed regularly. Not all captured prey makes it back to the bivouac; at least some is consumed by the ants in the field.

Is it possible that ants simply pass captured prey around to their nestmates, in lieu of trophallaxis? Do any of the army ant biologists who visit this blog know?

3 thoughts on “Eciton enjoying a light snack”

  1. Am I right in saying these might be the best- if not only- pictures ever taken of feeding Eciton workers? Is that also a male pupa they’re eating?

    They also remind me of how my Camponotus (Myrmentoma) eat Tetramorium pupae (they basically reject all other sources of protein I’ve offered them).

Leave a Reply