A home built with silk and defended with burning abdominal fluid
A few years ago I was visiting my dad over the Christmas holidays. He pointed to an old mango tree in his back yard and said “come and have a look at this.”
After wading through the festering mess of fermenting mangoes, surely the olfactory grenades of the tropics, we stopped at the monsterio plant growing at the base of the tree.
And there amongst its elephantine foliage, was the prize: an enormous leaf, carefully folded and secured into a perfectly enclosed green capsule.
It was a green ant nest – a true marvel of design.
Green ants (Oecophylla smaragdina) live in colonies numbering into the thousands, and although their nests may sprawl across the suburbs of several trees and shrubs, there is still only one queen.
Silk produced by the ant larvae are used to bind or ‘weave’ together the sides of the leaves, creating the secure nests.
If you’ve ever been set upon by a green ant it’s unlikely you’ll be keen to repeat the experience. In researching this story I learnt that they are actually unable to sting, but instead swarm in defence of the nest and then bite the attacker, before squirting liquid from their abdomens onto the bite, causing a severe burning pain.
So on that cheery note, please enjoy the marvels of the green ant nest, created by one of nature’s great builders.