Resistance Is Not Futile

As we noted previously, Eciton hamatum army ants feed on the brood of other social insects.

Their erstwhile prey, however, sometimes mount a defense. Ferocious little Azteca ants on the Jatun Sacha station grounds seemed to know what the army ants were up to and weren’t having any of it.  This photo series depicts Azteca guards capturing and killing Eciton raiders that stepped into their territory.

photo details:
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM macro lens & 12mm extension tube
on a Canon EOS 7D camera
ISO100-200, f/14, 1/250 sec
indirect strobe bounced off overhead white paper

12 thoughts on “Resistance Is Not Futile”

  1. Is this one of the Azteca that don’t form mutualisms with Cecropia? It might be interesting to study what myrmecophilous plants do to protect their resident ants from army ants.

    Did you stay to see if this particular raid was successful?

  2. I feel sorry for that big ant being dismembered alive by the little ants. But the big ant is actually the aggressor! Guess it’s human nature to root for the underdog.

  3. Great camera work btw. The first and third pics, with their ant’s-eye views, make you feel like a soldier rushing to attack.

  4. Safety in numbers. How does Azteca fair when there is a raid? Do they still attempt to overwhelm the aggressors; do they attempt to escape? Are the Azteca colonies typically wiped out or do they typically survive?

  5. Pheidole ants mount a particularly strong defense against Solenopsis invicta scouts in a behavior termed ‘enemy specification.’ Do Azteca ants display enemy specification with respect to Labidus?

  6. In this particular instance the Eciton column was able to get past the first line of Azteca, although at a cost. I counted about 30 dead or dying Eciton around the base of the tree. I did not see the raiders returning with any brood, so in this instance I think the army ants were unsuccessful.

    The behavior of the Azteca– worked up into a frothy dolichoderine mass- certainly suggested “enemy specification”, although this behavior would be of somewhat different effect than in the Pheidole/Solenopsis case, as army ants don’t have scouts.

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