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Let's take a look at a few more images my husband brought back from Malaysia.

In this video he found an ant running on his hand. Because he was struggling to focus, he passed the ant to a colleague (I edited out the shots of his feet).

If you got seasick viewing that, here's a screenshot:

When I saw his video I squirmed a bit. If an ant is as thin and wasp-like as this one is, I'm pretty sure it can sting.

Is it a Tetraponera? Am I right that they were being a bit foolhardy to handle it?

These would have been less of a problem:

The running insects in the video are processional termites. You can see some of the workers carrying what are probably clumps of lichen in their mandibles. Cool insects.

He definitely doesn't get to go without me next time.

Is it an ant?

texas-bow-legged-bug-ant-mimicTake a closer look. Can you see the beak folded under the head?

Although it resembles a worker ant, this insect is a Texas bow-legged bug, Hyalymenus tarsatus.

In this species, only the nymphs are the ant mimics.  In fact, as they develop from one instar to the next, the nymphs exhibit a variety of colors to more closely match different ant species of similar sizes (see examples at BugGuide). In addition to mimicking the appearance of the ants, the Texas bow-legged bug nymphs also walk and move their antennae like ants.

Texas bow-legged bugs feed on the seed pods of a number of legumes (Fabaceae), including rattlebush, Sesbania drummondii. They are also reported feeding on milkweed seed pods. Ants are commonly found tending aphids on the same plants.

Just goes to show appearances can be deceiving.

Reference:

Paulo S. Olviera. (1985) On the mimetic association between nymphs of Hyalymenus spp. (Hemiptera: Alydidae) and ants. Journal of the Linnean Society, 83:  371-384. (.pdf)

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Happy 2014 everyone! With a new year comes a resolution to liven things up here at Wild About Ants.

What about squirrels rolling around on ants?

The video author calls this "anting." Hum, do you see any evidence of ants?

Anting has long been described in birds. Birds may pick up the ants in their beaks and wipe their body with the ants' bodies, which is called active anting or "self-anointing." On the other hand (or wing), they may simply squat or lie on an anthill shaking their wings and tail to stir up the ants, a behavior which is called passive anting.

Why do birds expose themselves to ants? The most common suggestion is that the ants' defensive chemicals help combat the birds' parasites. Other possibilities are that the ant chemicals relieve the itch of molting. Some birdwatchers have even suggested anting may be addictive for birds.

Back to squirrels, when I looked into this further I found out Doris C. Hauser wrote an article in the Feb. 1964 Journal of Mammalogy (Vol. 45, No. 1, pp. 136-138) called "Anting by Gray Squirrels" where she describes observing several gray squirrels digging around on and laying near ant mounds.

John T. Longino reports a case of "True anting by the capuchin, Cebus capucinus" in the April 1984 (Volume 25, Issue 2, pp 243-245) issue of Primates. In his literature review he also mentions A. H. Chisholm noticing anting in cats (for example, see this newspaper report from The Argus, October 23, 1954.)

Of course, humans are getting into the act, too. The Times of India reports in the December 8, 2013 article "Soap made from an ant hill? Try it out" mud from ant hills is used in rural India as a beauty treatment and now is being marketed as a soap additive. Okay, so it isn't live ants yet, but are they far behind?

Yes, I doubt it, as well. I know there have definitely been times when I have gone to extremes to avoid being covered by certain kinds of ants.

Have you ever observed animals anting? What do you think of this behavior?