Did you know that ants are capable of using tools?

We knew that some species of ants can use tools, particularly to collect liquid food; however, these new data allow us to be surprised at the remarkable tool use displayed by black fire ants.

Black fire ants, Solenopsis richteri, are native to South America, but are now an invasive species in the southern United States after being introduced.

These findings suggest that ants and other social insects may have considerable cognitive abilities for unique foraging strategies. In particular, this species of ants uses sand to extract liquid food from containers when they are at risk of drowning.

In the lab experiment, when given small bowls of sugar water, the black fire ants were able to float and feed on the surface, but when the researchers lowered the surface tension, the ants began depositing grains of sand inside the bowl. container coming out of it.

As Aiming Zhou, associate professor at Huazhong Agricultural University, Wuhan, China, and lead author of the research, explains:

We found that the ants used sand to build a structure that could extract sugar water from the container for later collection. This exceptional tool-making ability not only reduced the ants’ risk of drowning, but also provided a larger space for them to collect sugar water.

These structures were never observed when the ants fed on containers of pure sugar water, indicating an adaptive approach to using this new tool.

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