Answer to the Monday Mystery: An Extremely Odd Ant, and an Extremely Odd Scale Insect

So, what were Monday evening’s squishy pink things?

Melissotarsus silk-weaving ants farm Diaspidid scale insects inside galleries embedded in the bark of an Erythrina tree (Kibale Forest, Uganda).

JasonC, for ten points, shares the answer:

It’s a Melissotarsus weissi larva accompanied by its scale insect symbionts in the family Diaspididae. The symbionts are presumably farmed for their meat. Yes, I was just reading the account on the Yuku forum.

I’ll also award a point to Michiel for picking the symbiotic nature of the ant/scale relation, if not the right system.

Melissotarsus is surely among the strangest ants I have ever observed. Tiny, pudgy, and unable to stand up outside their nests without falling over, these little African & Malagasy endemics spin silk as adults and farm scale insects for meat rather than honeydew. Once I get more photos worked up I’ll give these little creatures a dedicated post.

Inside a silk-lined nest gallery, a Melissotarsus weissi worker tends to scale insects (Kibale Forest, Uganda).

By the way, did I mention that the African Ant Course last month was awesome?

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