Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Wasps Compete With Native Ants in Surprising Way

A recent study by researchers at Victoria University has shown that invasive Common Wasps (Vespula vulgaris) will pick up and remove ants that are competing with them for a food source. Phil Lester and Julien Grangier took video of the wasps picking up native brown bush ants, flying off and dropping them away from the food.

Dr Lester says the ants are not always physically hurt, but appear stunned by the experience and often do not return to the food. He said the wasps “outcompete all sorts of animals for food in these beech forests and drive off anything” – sometimes even native parrots.

But, despite being 200 times smaller, the ants are able to hold their own by spraying the wasps with acid and biting them. The acid defence may be part of the reason wasps carefully remove the ants rather than kill them.

“When the wasps pick them up and drop them, I would imagine they are getting a mouthful of acid at that time and if they bite too hard they would get an even bigger mouthful of acid – they are really attempting to carry them rather than bite and kill them.”

This is wasp behavior had not previously been recorded. It highlights the way in which invasive species can have surprising affects on natural habitats and ecosystems.

An ant walks into a bar and says to the barman.
“500,000 beers to go please!”

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