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Honey Pot Ants: Ants full of...honey!

Updated on July 12, 2014

What are they ?

Honey pot ants are a fat and strange-looking class (caste) of ant ,occurring in certain species. As you probably know, ants are social insects, forming large and complex societies. Each ant belongs to a different caste and each caste has a different purpose.

For example, every colony has at least one queen. The queen spends her whole life deep down the nest, laying eggs and eating the food that workers bring to her, until she dies of ageing or other factors.

Drones are another class, the only male individuals in the colony. Their sole function is to mate with the "princesses". The drones die soon after and the princesses establish new colonies.

However, the vast majority of eggs hatch to infertile females that become workers, soldiers and depending on the species, other specialised classes.

One of these specialized classes are honey pot ants or simply honey ants. These ants are essentially the "storage units" of the colony, storing all kinds of nutrition in their abdomens, in liquid, honey-like form.


The boring but important life of honey ants

Honey pot ants have a very boring but crucial for the rest of the colony life. At first, they start like normal ants. Then, they start eating more than their friends do and get to big to navigate with ease through the narrow tunnels. Next, they move to the deepest parts of the colony, hang upside down from the ceiling and wait for workers to bring them food!

All they will do from now on is to gorge themselves with food. I am sure many people would enjoy living such a boring but care-free lifestyle. Well, this isn't the whole story. Honey pot ants aren't some kind of a privileged caste. Every caste makes certain sacrifices, and the honey ants make the ultimate one!

In times of crisis, when there isn't enough food to sustain the whole colony, the workers again visit the honey ants, this time to eat the ingredients they have been storing inside them the whole time. You probably guessed it right. Honey ants don't live to see the next day.

In the video below, you can see some honey pot ants in action, with them appearing on screen at 1:05.

Honey pot ants video

The disgusting feeding process

Workers feed honey ants with all types of fluids that comes from flowers, other plant parts and sometimes insects, aphids even dead animals. Some of you may already be disgusted. Well, it doesn't get any better. To feed their friends, the workers first eat food and then regurgitate it -in liquid form- inside the mouths of honey ants!

Species with honey ants

As of today, researchers have reported about 30 species with a honey ant class. All of them are from the following genera:

  • Camponotus
  • Cataglyphis
  • Leptomyrmex
  • Melophorus
  • Myrmecocystus
  • Plagiolepis
  • Prenolepis

Honey ants occur worldwide, in areas where food and water becomes scarce for extended periods of time. This includes hot deserts, transitional habitats and woodlands with cool but very dry climates.

Honey ants of the Myrmecocystus genus
Honey ants of the Myrmecocystus genus

Are they edible?

I am sure many are wondering if they are edible and tasty. Yes, they are!

Most, if not all, species are edible. No preparation is required. Just grab one and bite the full-of-honey abdomen. People say that the "honey" has a very sweet taste whereas research has shown that it is a good source of sugars.

They are considered a delicacy in many parts of the world, for instance, the Aborigines of Australia see them as a delicious dessert, as shown in the video below:

More strange animals

This is pretty much all there is to know about honey pot ants.

I really hope you enjoyed reading about this strange ant caste. If you did, please consider liking, subscribing and sharing this hub:) Don't hesitate to leave a comment if you have further questions, something to add or just to say a hello!

In the meantime, here are a few links that you may find interesting:

Honey pot ants / Unknown Species
Honey pot ants / Unknown Species


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