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Time to knock the cobwebs off this blog with some new posts. Let's start by taking a look at ants tending the aster hopper, Publilia concava.

This species of treehopper is relatively easy to find because the nymphs feed in aggregations on the underside of goldenrod leaves (Solidago altissima).

The relationship between ants and aster hoppers is a mutualism. The ants guard the treehoppers and drive away predators. In this case the ants were Formica sp.

In return, the nymphs supply food for the ants in the form of liquid honeydew. In the center of the photograph the nymph has curled its tubular abdomen to present food to the ant.

The adult female treehoppers lay their eggs in clusters and guard them until they hatch. Then the worker ants take over. In a recent study, Morales and Zink found adult female treehoppers with ants tending them were more likely to lay eggs than untended ones. At one site the researchers discovered egg laying per treehopper actually increases with the number of worker ants nearby.

If you've never watched ants tending aster hoppers, here's a short video. (Unfortunately, the lighting conditions weren't ideal and there was a breeze.).

You might think that the treehopper nymphs, as phloem feeders, would be rather sessile, but the nymphs move around more than you might expect. Morales and Zink suggest that treehoppers may respond to density of conspecifics as well as ants.

In any case, the relationship between aster hoppers and ants is an interesting one.

Have you ever seen aster hoppers tended by ants?

Reference:

Morales MA, Zink AG (2017) Mechanisms of aggregation in an ant-tended treehopper: Attraction to mutualists is balanced by conspecific competition
PLOS ONE 12(7): e0181429. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0181429

Morales, 2002. Ant-dependent oviposition in the membracid Publilia concava. Ecological Entomology. 27:  247-250. (download .pdf)

Previous post about the treehopper on thistle, Entylia carinata

The Washington Post has a new video this week featuring Ted Schultz, research entomologist at the National Museum of Natural History.

The peculiarity of ant farmers at the National Museum of Natural History (video link). Note:  Sorry, the next video in the series autoplays when this one is done unless you stop it.

The video accompanies an article by Sarah Kaplan, "These strange, subterranean cities are eerily like our own. But they’re ruled by ants."

atta1-alex-wild-public-domainPublic Domain Photograph of a Leafcutter Ant Fungus Garden by Alex Wild.

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Okay, you've probably already seen these ant videos because they are making the rounds of social networks, but I thought they were worth sharing again.

Bees Unlimited shared this video of Leptogenys ants moving a millipede in Cambodia.

Aren't those chains of workers surprising?

Here's a closer view, where you can see the details of the workers better.

I'm surprised this millipede isn't discharging, because it looks fresh. Maybe it already did.

Finally, here's another video of the same behavior by a different author at Wimp.com.

Forget the Ant Class in Portal. I'm headed to Cambodia.:-)
What about you?

Have you seen ant researcher Deborah Gordon's newest TED talk?

She mentions the Ants in Space project, as well as results from her 28 years studying a group of harvester ants in the Southwest.

Dr. Gordon proposes some interesting connections between what we can learn from ants and other fields of research. What do you think?