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article imageVideo: Male ants gang-mate dying, half-eaten queen

By JohnThomas Didymus     Mar 26, 2012 in Environment
A video by a Slovakian photographer Adrian Skippy Purkart, shows ants swarming around the queen already half-eaten by a crab spider. The video shows the males repeatedly trying to mate with their dying queen as the crab spider eats her alive head-first.
Live Science reports the insect photographer Alex Wild, commented on the bizarre scene in a blog post: "I can't imagine anything more unpleasant than being sucked dry by a crab spider latched to my skull. Other than the same, but simultaneously being assaulted by a sex-crazed drone swarm."
The ants in the video belong to a species called Prenolepis nitens, and are members of a genus of ants called the "false honey ants" or "winter ants." MSNBC explains that the drones continue mating with the queen in spite of the fact that she is being eaten because she is emitting chemical signals called pheromones, that cue the drones instinctively into mating behaviour.
According to Walter Tschinkel of Florida State University: "Mating in insects is facilitated by simple cues and signals. In many insects, including ants, the stimuli that induce males to attempt mating with a female are largely chemical. Technically, this queen is not yet fully dead, and the chemical signals she emanates are undoubtedly still strong."
Live Science reports that Rob Dunn of the North Carolina State University, said: "She is probably releasing tons of pheromones and the males are too hopped up on those pheromones to be very discriminating. They are wasting time, but the vast majority of male ants die without mating at all, so they aren't wasting more time than average."
The chemical signals this "super lady" is sending out must be powerful indeed, for the video shows the wild orgiastic frenzy of the male insects swarming over her, pushing and straining frantically against each other for sexual access.
Tschinkel added sarcastically: "I know folks that spend half their waking hours on Facebook. That has about the same chance of increasing their fitness as does mating with a dead queen."
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