Ants live in the forest but how do they build their richly combed nests? They chop up wood very finely, soak it in sweet honeydew which is excreted by aphids and let a fungus do the rest of the work: the fungus grows through the sweet substrate and gives the chambers strength, like steel in reinforced concrete. If a young ant-queen flies on a wedding flight, she takes the fungus for a future nest with her.
How do ants
build their nest?
Picture above: The black and shiny wood-ant can’t form a nest by herself, but sneaks into a nest of yellow Chthonolasius ants, kills their queen and is supported by the workers in raising her own brood. © Schlick-Steiner & Steiner
Fungi-breeding ants and termites are known from tropical regions, but there are also native ant-species that maintain a close symbiosis with fungi and cultivate mushroom gardens, which is largely unknown. Terrariums for ants should change this.
Birgit Schlick-Steiner, Florian Steiner (Institute of Ecology)