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Messor majors - not soldiers but cowards?

messor major soldier warrior

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#1 Offline skocko76 - Posted November 13 2018 - 2:48 AM

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Hello everybody!

 

Having a relatively mature M. barbarus colony (500+) and a young M. capitatus (100) one, I have observed different behaviors of the castes.

It is general belief that major workers act as soldiers, although that is not their main purpose. The main purpose is, of course, cracking and chewing large seeds. This was consistent with my observations when there is a disturbance in the nest (usually by myself at feeding/cleaning time) when a few majors would show up in a "sheriff" fashion, all riled up, checking the situation left and right. However, in my recent experience, their act of "being tough" falls in the water. 

I have recently started feeding them live insects, merely to observe their swarming behavior. The majors usually come into contact with the insect in the outworld, realize it is an intruder, and panically run for their lives back into the safety of the nest. Minors and media workers attack as a rule. Especially minors.

I have also detached a part of their habitat for proper cleaning (Messors accumulate a lot of waste, and have interest in street art - in poop :D ).

I used a paint brush to transfer all ants from the detached habitat module back into the nest. It was easy for the most part; you touch the ant with the brush and they either climb on it in interest, or bite down on it. Majors, on the other hand, panicked all over, proving extremely difficult to transfer.

Thinking about it, it makes sense in the grand scheme of things. The colony has invested more resources into growing a major, so it is more "valuable" to the colony. Plus, it can do a chore no other caste can - crack open large seeds. Minors are "expendable" compared to majors, as they are more numerous and easier to grow from egg.

This kind of goes against the conception of majors doubling as soldiers...

What about other polymorphic species, e.g. Camponotus? I have a C. barbaricus colony (100), but majors mostly stay inside the dirt. I cannot think of a specialized role for the majors other that being soldiers, as Camponotus don't chew seed. Maybe being used as "fridges" in a honeypot ant fashion, only less pronounced?

 

What are your thoughts/experiences?

 

 

 

 



#2 Offline CoolColJ - Posted November 13 2018 - 3:01 AM

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Pheidole majors, at least the species I have and had, definitely get their mandibles dirty and charge out to protect the nest, while also serving as seed and nut crackers

 


  • FSTP and Ant_Dude2908 like this
Current ant colonies -
1) Opisthopsis Rufithorax (strobe ant), Melophorus sp2. black and orange
Pheidole antipodum colonies...  Polyrhachis rufifemur, Camponotus suffusus bendingesis, Camponotus nigriceps, Myrmecia fulvipes, Colobopsis macrocephala
Journal = http://www.formicult...ra-iridomyrmex/

Heterotermes cf brevicatena termite pet/feeder journal = http://www.formicult...feeder-journal/

#3 Offline anttics - Posted November 13 2018 - 11:30 AM

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Lol. I have a veromessor pergandei. Majors never fight. They are kept inside to crack nuts, and seeds. My colony was attack by argentine ants. For 8 hours. Untill. I got home. There were 1000s of argentines dead in the out world. I counted 200 minors, 50 medians. And 2 majors dead. Inside their nest. they stayed away from all corners, and walls of the formicarium. With queen, and brood were in the middle. I was suprised. I never seen them In defensive mode. I did not took pictures of their formation. Cause I panic trying to kill the argentines. Which killed 2 other colonies in the same table. I believe the majors in messor species are the last line of defense. They have superior status compared to minors, and medians. Pheidole are a different story.

#4 Online Ant_Dude2908 - Posted November 13 2018 - 6:38 PM

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My Camponotus majors work in all different fashions. The largest ones stay mostly in the nest and protect the queen. The middle size majors hunt and take care of brood. Small majors (and medians and minors) mainly attack anything that moves (my hand included).

#5 Offline skocko76 - Posted November 14 2018 - 7:28 AM

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Ha! That goes hand-in-hand with my experience!  The smaller they are, the more aggressive they act.

Pheidole excluded, as they have a dedicated soldier caste.


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#6 Offline FSTP - Posted November 14 2018 - 11:37 AM

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Maybe they have much more utility for processing fooods then for defence. Smaller ants seem to take out larger ants much easier as then can pin and dismantle. If you've ever seen an Argentine ant colony take down something larger like Pogonomyrmex californicus, then you'll know what I mean. Also its somewhat of a numbers game, there are simply more smaller ants to do more work. I'm speaking in broad generalities though.


Edited by FSTP, November 14 2018 - 11:37 AM.

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There are videos of my ants here: https://www.youtube....bN5yYK2KWXA0vQ?


#7 Offline CoolColJ - Posted November 14 2018 - 2:01 PM

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I dunno, you cannot generalise, each species is it's own thing

 

Camponotus aeneopilosus species we have here, which are very active day and night have majors that go out and forage alone. I've seen them out and about.

 

Same for Camponotus cf nigriceps, they have really large 15+mm majors that I see out and about foraging with their only slightly smaller minor workers in the late afternoons and evenings in force.

And will aggressively defend the nest from any intrusion

 


Current ant colonies -
1) Opisthopsis Rufithorax (strobe ant), Melophorus sp2. black and orange
Pheidole antipodum colonies...  Polyrhachis rufifemur, Camponotus suffusus bendingesis, Camponotus nigriceps, Myrmecia fulvipes, Colobopsis macrocephala
Journal = http://www.formicult...ra-iridomyrmex/

Heterotermes cf brevicatena termite pet/feeder journal = http://www.formicult...feeder-journal/





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