Hello folks who wonder if taking a pic of your food before eating is the modern way of saying grace before the meal,

Note: This is a part of the series highlighting India's fascinating world of Natural History I discovered during my trip. You don't need to like Chicken Tikka Masala and/or Mango Lassi to enjoy this post.

Gather around kids!! Grab your Pumpkin spiced latte, pumpkin Kombucha or pumpkin pie and come by the fireplace. Today, we are going to talk about a tale. A tale about a kingdom that has drama, sabotage and a happy ending. So buckle up kids, this is a fascinating one.

The ant kingdom gets more enchanting the more time you spend observing it.

One of the ants that caught my eye during my trip was the Weaver ant that reminded me of a Chihuahua who is always waiting to pick up a fight with anything that moves.
Look at how aggressive it gets when I try to pick it up. Typically other ants would just run away instead of facing the threat.

We all have had our share of working with an overly demanding boss.  This can be a constant source of stress and even affect employee productivity. That stress can rise exponentially if your boss is 10 times larger than yourself. Not the case with these aphids that were being farmed for honeydew by these Carpenter Ants"Poop faster! FASTER! FASTER!" shouted the carpenter ant.

But the aphid is no newbie in keeping such kinds of bosses happy. It delivered even under the tightest of deadlines. Below is one pooping out the honeydew and the impatient bosses lapping it up. "Good job but you need to keep on doing this for another month, if you want to be employee of the month" it declares.

Let us take a look at the ant I was chasing and see if it rings a bell as to what might be so special about this ant.

"Not fair, Karan. We could hardly see a thing. It went by too fast". Alright, how about now.

"I don't see anything special. What is this hullabaloo all about?"

To understand that, let's go through a quick review of how most ant colonies work. You see, ant colonies have one queen or several in the case of Argentine ants. These queens are fertile which means they get to lay eggs and have the workers take care of them. Workers on the other hand, are sterile and cannot start their own families. The difference between a worker and a queen ant is apparent by their sizes.

Below is an example of a worker and queen Argentine Ant helping evacuate the eggs from their colony after I blew their cover.

And this caste system is something that every ant species follows. Well, almost all. That is where the Bornean queenless ants take a non-traditional approach. The only ant species that do not have a formal queen in their colony and all workers are born fertile.

Wait, then who gets to lay the eggs in this colony?  You see, only one mated worker gets to play the role of the queen, so once she is in charge, every daughter that is born who might challenge her mother for the throne has her organs mutilated so she just behaves like another worker in the colony. When this mother ant dies, the first ant to emerge from the pupa stage will go to mutilate the organs of every other sister ant that is in development and thus claim the throne. Here is an animation to explain the same.

These worker ants have a neat stinger that they conceal in their abdomen and it takes a little bit of coaxing to showcase their weapons.

And finally, we all know that male ants are adorably called "flying sperm", since that is the role they play in the ant colony. Their only job is to mate with queens from other colonies. So it was a pity, when I found one on the ground during a rainstorm. The rain washed away all of its hopes, dreams and mates. "Oh, poor soul"

Male ants have claspers to hold the female queen during mating. Below are the claspers on this male ant.

I, in my infinite wisdom put a lot of pressure on this male ant's abdomen which was not such a good idea, in hindsight.

And my readers always complain that my posts never have a happy ending. There you have it. Best of the luck for the week ahead folks!

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