Joshua Tree Road Trip 2015 Part 3
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Joshua Tree Road Trip Spring 2015 Part 3
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More Images Of Honeypot Ants (Myrmecocystus mexicanus)

The color of Myrmecocystus mexicanus workers is described as yellow in most ant references that I have consulted. It is definitely the color of Werther's Original! I have verified this with live ants in the field (see following image).

Myrmecocystus mexicanus workers enjoying a Werther's butterscotch hard candy at their nest entrance. The ants and Werther's candy were approximately the same color.

A different colored species of Myrmecocystus in Tehachapi: Cf. Myrmecocystus mimicus.

  Look Up Other Myrmecocystus Species On Wayne's Ant Index  

Close-Up Views Of Honeypot Ants (Myrmecocystus mexicanus)

Honeypot Ant (Myrmecocystus mexicanus) After Sugar Water Feast

The gaster on this Myrmecocystus mexicanus worker is swollen after ingesting sugar water. Repletes deep in the nest have gasters 2-3 times this size.

The genus Myrmecocystus is commonly known as "honeypot ants." Worker ants tend special polymorphic ants called repletes. These unusual ants hang from the ceiling deep within the nest and are "living storage units." They store large quantities of nutritious honeylike fluid in their swollen abdomens to feed the colony during times of famine and drought. This is an adaptation for living in extremely hot desert environments with prolonged drought, such as the Salton Sea region. The repletes of some species become the size of small grapes. During leaner times of the year when foraging food is unavailable, workers will tap their antenna upon the head, mandibles and antenna of a replete to solicit food, which is then readily provided to the repletes' nestmates. See the following image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Wayne's Trivia Note #245 (23 March 2015)

From the Bakersfied Area Skeptic Society: A honeypot ant "replete" engorged with nectar. Like a living larder, It remains deep in the nest and supplies other workers with liquid food during times of drought. Running fast is no longer an option for this ant! This tasty, sweet morsel is highly prized by aborigines in several countries where honeypot ants live.

Trophallaxis: Liquid Food Transfer Between Ants

Carpenter ants (Camponotus fragilis) on Owens Peak: The smaller, minor worker placed its mandibles in the open jaws of the larger major worker, presumably sharing food (trophallaxis). In my container they repeatedly assumed this position. Wikipedia shows another species of Camponotus exhibiting this behavior.