House Of Bones
Sanctuary Papers: Dose of Natural History and Science – Yes, you read right. The bone-house wasp Deuteragenia ossarium literally makes use of the properties of the bones of dead ant corpses to protect its nest.
Illustration: Vinay A. Salvi.
The wasps build nest chambers using plant debris, soil and resin, or even abandoned crevices and cavities. But there is something else they use as a form of defense against predators – ant corpses. Researchers in southeast China were in for a not-so-pleasant surprise when they came across debris of ant corpses that were blocking the nests’ entrances. But, what purpose could dead ants possibly serve? Ants possess complex chemicals within their exoskeletons that aid in recognition and communication. Even after death, their bodies retain those chemicals. So the idea of placing the ant corpses at the entrance of the nest is to fool predators or parasites hunting for wasp larvae into believing it is an ant colony upon which they have stumbled.
First appeared in: Sanctuary Asia, Vol. XXXV No. 8, August 2015.