Termites Panic When Ants Invade Their Nests, Unless The Invading Ants Bring Alcohol
Ants and termites do not get along well. Some ant species spend much of their time going to war with termites. These ant species will travel and wreak havoc from termite nest to termite nest. When a few termites in a colony can sense an impending invasion, an alarm cue is sent to the rest of the colony. Once every soldier and worker termite within a colony receives these alarm cues, the termites will mobilize within their nests in order to prepare for the coming ant attack. Once ants gain access to a termite nest, a massacre normally ensues. In these cases ants are almost always the winners. Although most termites would freak-out if they sensed enemy ants within their nests. One particular group of termite-hunting ants does not seem to bother termites, even after the ants gain access to their nests. It is rare for a termite colony to remain calm when ants begin to invade their nests. Why would termites remain calm when their ant enemies gain access to their nests? To put it simply, the termites are fooled by a “non-visual” sort of camouflage used by aggressive ants.
The ant species known as Decamorium velense is one example of an ant species that invades termite nests undisturbed as a result of their unique form of camouflage. The Decamorium velense species, and many other ant species, eventually invade termite nests by first sending out a scout to locate termite nests that are well suited for invasions. Once the scout locates a nest, it signals around thirty other ants in order to begin an invasion. Once this occurs the nesting termites do not seem off-put by their new ant roommates. However, the ants quickly start to immobilize their termite pray without drawing the attention of other nesting termites. It turns out that this species of ant secretes aliphatic ketones and aldehydes (alcohol). The first listed substance sends termites into a panic, but the second substance, which is basically alcohol, does not. The scent of alcohol obscures the ketone secretions, therefore termites only smell the alcohol, which is why they do not panic. Later studies showed that any type of ant that secretes alcohol may go unnoticed by their termite prey.
Do you think that ants developed the ability to secrete alcohol solely to remain unnoticed by their termite?