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Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Meat Ants guarding Lycaenid caterpillars from Bull Ant attack
(1.) An Australian Bull Ant viewed under a microscope

(2.) A Bull Ant foraging on Acacia mearnsii

(3.) A Bull Ant returning to its nest with a Lycaenid caterpillar as prey

(4.) Lycaenid caterpillars at different stages of development

(5.) Meat ants tending and guarding a mature Lycaenid caterpillar.

Meat Ants guard Lycaenid caterpillars against predators such as Bull Ants and birds, and parasites such as wasps and flies. In return for being guarded, the caterpillars offer the Meat Ants nutritious secretions from special organs located at the rear, and along the length, of their bodies. The Meat Ants also appear to direct the caterpillar towards fresh foliage and to herd them around the tree.