Bumble Bees, Honey Ants and Naked Mole Rats –
What do they have in common?
Well, they were all discussed at the science group’s June meeting, along with termites and soldier aphids. We learnt a new word – eusociality. It means that all these creatures live in social colonies where each individual has its own job. There is a queen, who spends her whole life laying eggs; there are workers, who collect food and look after the young; and there are soldiers, who defend the colony.
Joe introduced us to soldier aphids, which inhabit black poplar trees and defend their home in the poplar gall to the death.
Sheila brought us bumble bees, which make little wax pots to store their honey in.
And Brian told us about compass termites, which construct tall, narrow mounds accurately aligned north to south to help them keep cool in the Australian desert.
Jill found out about honey ants, which store nectar in their own bodies to feed the rest of the colony during hard times.
And we were all surprised to hear that one of our more well-travelled members had eaten honey ants, which are a delicacy in Mexico!
And last, but by no means least, John introduced us to the naked mole rat, one of the very few eusocial mammals, which lives in deep tunnels under the African desert in Ethiopia and Somalia.
They eat roots and tubers, and they seldom venture above ground, except when it is time to found a new colony. Then, a “princess” mole rat braves the outside world after dark to follow the scent of a male mole rat with whom she will mate and become the queen of a new nest. Isn’t that romantic?
And isn’t science amazing!