Thanks to myrmecologist Benoit Guenard, I recently had the opportunity to photograph live Pachycondyla chinensis in a laboratory setting. This species- sometimes called the Asian Needle Ant- was introduced accidentally to the southeastern United States over half a century ago, and where it occurs it seems to displace many native ants.

What is particularly odd about the displacement is that P. chinensis is primarily a termite predator. I wouldn’t expect a dietary specialist to have much effect on a more generalist native fauna, yet it does. Fortunately, the ecology of the invasion is the subject of active research by Benoit and others.

I found that placing live Reticulitermes termites near a hungry needle ant nest fragment induced reliable predation behavior, enough to capture a series of photographs, below:

On first contact, the ant holds the termite in her mandibles and immediately thrusts her stinger forward.

The termite often defecates in response to an injection of a massive amount of venom.

This termite is nearly subdued after a few seconds of stinging and the ant retracts her weapon.

Nestmates process the kill.

A termite kill can turn into a party.


photo details:
Canon MP-E 65mm 1-5x macro lens on a Canon EOS 50D
ISO 100, f/13, 1/250 sec, diffused twin flash
substrate is white mylar