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Honeypot ants and their “golden water balloons” of nutrients

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“Deep in their underground nests, honeypot ants stuff members of their own colony until they look like golden water balloons. Drop by drop, worker ants deliver nectar and other liquid food into their largest sisters’ mouths. When food is scarce in the desert, the colony will feed from these living storage tanks, known as repletes.”

Learn more about honeypot ants and their “glistening globes” of nutrients. This Deep Look episode from KQED provides an up-close look at how these ants take on different roles, including how around one-fifth of the colony transforms into containers of elixir for those times “when food is scarce in the ants’ arid homelands in the Southwest and Mexico.”

repletes
anatomy

“As their belly grows, this flexible membrane stretches. The hard sclerites that protect the ant’s abdomen move away from one another, until they end up like a chain of islands on a tiny planet.

“Suspending themselves allows the air to circulate around them, maybe preventing a fungi attack.

“To our human eyes, these living chandeliers might seem like captives, hanging in the dark for weeks or months. Or it might look like they have it easy, just chilling while droplets are lovingly delivered.”

honey pot ants
Watch more Deep Look. Plus, watch ant videos, including:
A 55-hour honey time lapse
The incredible physics of ants and ant rafts
The Double-Crossing Ants to Whom Friendship Means Nothing

Bonus: Should we eat bugs?

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