Worker ants paralyze and kill termites from afar

Worker ants from a particular species of African ants have potent venom that can paralyze and kill termites from a distance, according to a study published Dec. 14 in the online journal PLoS ONE.

The research, conducted using a species called Crematogaster striatula, showed that chemicals the emit from their stinger have three functions: they attract nearby nestmates; repel alien ants; and paralyze and kill termites. While the first two effects require the ants to come into direct contact with the chemical, it appears that the termite effect can occur from a distance, without direct contact. This is important because, while alien ants competing for sugary will retreat upon sensing the chemical, termites remain and defend their territory.

The long-range activity of the ant venom protects them from the termites without having to come into direct contact. The researchers, led by Angelique Vetillard of the University of Toulouse in France, also characterized the specific chemicals in the venom, providing initial clues about the source of the venom toxicity.

The implications of this research "are promising because they provide a basis from which further studies can be conducted in the search for , including new molecules effective against insects resistant to currently-used insecticides", says Dr. Vetillard.


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More information: Rifflet A, Tene N, Orivel J, Treilhou M, Dejean A, et al. (2011) Paralyzing Action from a Distance in an Arboreal African Ant Species. PLoS ONE 6(12):e28571. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0028571
Citation: Worker ants paralyze and kill termites from afar (2011, December 14) retrieved 23 October 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2011-12-worker-ants-paralyze-termites-afar.html
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Dec 15, 2011
Perhaps it would have been worth mentioning that termite soldiers have spray-guns of their own


I think the point here is that these projectile liquids were thought to be 'contact only' weapons up to now.
This seems to indicate that the found weaponry is 'area of effect' (i.e. it can paralyze tremites without a direct hit).

Dec 16, 2011
Just wondering why you would bring this up about the long range weaponry of termites (which is well known). This article isn't about a finding in termites. So why should they include it?

Dec 16, 2011
If it were an article on the balance of forces I'd agree. But since it's not...

Dec 16, 2011
Again: This is not an article about weaponry. This is an article about the multiple uses of the chemicals exuded by a stinger. Attack/defense is just one of the three applications.

Or would you also include that termites use pheromones in an article about ant pheromones?

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