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Labor Management

Some species of ant develop a caste of big, strong, major workers (soldiers) responsible for milling (chewing and pulverizing hard seed food), storing liquid food, and defense. Workers gather and store food for the entire colony, lugging loads much larger than themselves back to the nest. The workers of Myrmecocystus mimicus, the honeypot ant of the southwestern United States, collect nectar from flowers, sweet moisture from fruit, and honeydew produced by sucking insects like aphids. The food is carried back to the nest, where it is regurgitated into the crop of storage worker ants, which become living storage barrels. When a hungry ant touches the head or mouth of a storage worker ant, the storage worker responds by regurgitating food for the hungry ant.

Worker ants remove all waste (such as body parts and feces) from the nest, or bury objects too large for removal. Different species use different methods of disposing of their dead. Many simply eat the dead. Others, such as the army ant (Eciton), carry the corpses out of the nest, while the fire ant (Solenopsis invicta) scatters the corpses about the nest's periphery. In some instances, sick and dying ants actually leave the nest to die.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Anticolonialism in Southeast Asia - Categories And Features Of Anticolonialism to Ascorbic acidAnts - Mating, Reproduction, And Life Span, Labor Management, Defense And Offense, Communication, Ants And The Ecosystem - development Social structure and behavior