Back in 2015, we asked why ants collect feathers. We suggested food, moisture, or that feathers are left behind by anting birds.
Now a recent article in Scientific American has another answer. Brazilian scientist Inácio Gomes, of the Federal University of Viçosa, suggests Pheidole oxyops surround their nests with feathers to lure other insects to the area, where they fall in. Thus, the decorated ant nests serve as pitfall traps.
Gomes discounted the moisture idea by adding wet cotton balls. The added source of water apparently did not change the ants’ behavior.
This is cool, but since ants also drag the feathers into the nest, it is likely there is still more to learn.
The original study was published in Ecological Entomology in Feb. 2019.