Army ants are one of the most brutal and warlike of all insect predators. Despite their small size, army ants are known for laying siege to a variety of different insect nests. These ants eat millipedes, other ants, termites and they have even been found raiding wasp nests for eggs and larvae. Although these ants must be among the most feared of insect predators, other insects have adapted to leech-off of army ants. Other insects may scavenge for food left over by army ants, and some insects even take shelter in army ant nests. One of the most unusual insects that is known for following army ants around is a type of beetle that is referred to as Nymphister kronaueri. Two researchers, Christoph von Beeren and Alexey K. Tishechkin, discovered these beetles hitching rides on the backs of army ants.
Army ants are in the habit of marching in formations for long distances. This makes army ants an ideal form of transportation. Most insects would never dare to attach themselves to dangerous army ants just to effortlessly travel long distances. However, the Nymphister kronaueri species of beetle has managed to do this very thing without becoming ant food. This beetle is one of many insects that has adapted to living among ants. These insects are referred to as “myrmecophiles”, which translates to “ant lover”.
Myrmecophiles prefer to live among ants for several reasons other than locating easily accessible food sources. Insects prefer dwelling near ant colonies for the same reason that wild animals prefer to dwell near human habitats. Ant colonies operate under strict rules and they are typically located in environments that are ideal for many different types of insects. The strict rules governing ant colonies make ants less unpredictable than other solitary arthropods. Some insects have been living among ants for fifty million years. However, only the N. kronaueri beetle has the guts to ride on the backs of army ants. This beetle uses its mandibles as a way to latch onto the backs of traveling ants. This beetle has only been found in Costa Rica, and its ant-like appearance may fool army ants into thinking that N. kronaueri beetles are their own kind. However, you would think that the beetles would give themselves away once they started riding on the army ant’s backs.
Do you believe that some insects prefer to live among termites and other social insects for the same reason that ant habitats are preferred by many different non-social insects?