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Honey Pot Ants

Honey or honey pot ants is a common name of a number of unrelated species with similar habits.

honeypots1

honeypots-hanging

Any idea what the yellow grape-like objects are hanging from the nest?

The honey ants are the camels of the ant family. They live in dry areas throughout the world, but particularly the deserts of Australia, where food and water may be scarce for long periods of time. To cope, honey ants have unique storage tanks for holding liquids. These storage tanks are special worker ants called repletes.

When times are good and food is abundant, the repletes drink the extra liquid food and swell up like balloons. Then they hang around, literally, from the ceiling of the nest, until times are tough. If the colony runs out of food, the other workers entice the repletes to spit up their reserves to share with the others. Having repletes is kind of like having liquid food in the bank.

Because of their name, honey ants are sometimes mistakenly thought to feed on sweets, but the repletes may also store fluid from animal prey. Dr. Bill Brown used to tell a story about how he and some other scientists were digging up a nest of honey pot ants. Having heard that people in the southwestern United States and Australia eat the swollen repletes filled with honeydew, the other scientists decided to taste a few. Dr. Brown declined however, because he had noticed nearby foraging ants were gathering fluids from dead earthworms.

10 comments to Honey Pot Ants

  • [...] at Wild About Ants shares some great photos and educates us about the life history of honey pot ants. There’s the question of, why did I pick ants…? Why not butterflies or whatever? And the [...]

  • Madison

    I am doing research for class. Our reading story is called “Exploding Ants!” It is a really cool story! I am In 5th grade and I am doing extra credit for our reading test. This web page really helped me! Thanks a lot!! :D

  • Roberta

    Thanks for leaving a message, Madison. I know about the “Exploding Ants” book, it is cool.

  • Natalie

    I am doing a science project about insects. we cant just write about what that specific insect does but how they help the world/Humans. I’m in 7TH grade.

  • Roberta

    Natalie,

    Were you asking about how ants help the world? They do a lot of things. Ants recycle, clean up trash, feed us and other animals, aerate the soil, plant seeds of wildflowers, and keep pests under control.

    If you have a little time, try reading some of the posts in the “Benefits of Ants” category http://blog.wildaboutants.com/category/benefits-of-ants/

  • aldo

    great post

    i first became interest in ants after reading Keller and Gordon’s “lives of ants”

    i came across your post looking for a place to buy them online.

    cheers

  • vapickles

    I was sitting in science class and my lab partner was on google images finding pics to draw for our homework when she saw a pic of a honeypot ant. I thought it was cool so I went to a (regular) google search and searched it and picked this website. I think these ants are super cool looking!

    -vapickels

  • Loveleaf

    Where do you buy honeypot ants

  • Roberta

    I’m not sure that you can buy them. If any reader knows, please leave a comment.

  • kyrine

    that is awesome! and im only 12 aha but that is epic

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