Nestmate Transport

Nestmate transport in Myrmica. Raven Run Nature Sanctuary, Lexington, Kentucky.

If you spend time watching ants, you may sometimes notice that one ant appears to be carrying the body of a second, motionless ant. The second individual isn’t dead; rather, she’s just tucked away into EZ-carry mode. What’s going on?

It’s thought ants carry each other around for two reasons. The first is that the carrying ant knows the destination, and transport is a more reliable way than, say, leading, to get the second ant to location. The second reason is that the small size of ants makes carrying a more energy efficient way to move two ants than were both walking individually.

I photographed these Myrmica in Kentucky last week while out with the graduate students at Raven Run Nature Sanctuary.

photo details:
Canon MP-E 65mm 1-5x macro lens on a Canon EOS 6D
ISO 200, f/6.3, 1/180th second
diffuse twin flash

6 thoughts on “Nestmate Transport”

    1. Presumably they protect the relatively vulnerable waist. It’s much harder to bite off an ant’s abdomen with the spines in the way. Although, I don’t know if this explanation has ever been tested.

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  2. I’ve seen large-scale nest mate carrying in Formica exsectoides moving to a new nest site. I wonder if it’s the older, foraging workers who carry the younger, nurse workers, as the latter are not otherwise ready to venture from the nest?

    1. I had wondered that too, Terry. The carrying ant in this picture is actually missing a leg (not visible at this angle), suggesting an older ant.

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