Ant Mimics: Nymphs of Texas Bow-legged Bug

Is it an ant?

texas-bow-legged-bug-ant-mimicTake a closer look. Can you see the beak folded under the head?

Although it resembles a worker ant, this insect is a Texas bow-legged bug, Hyalymenus tarsatus.

In this species, only the nymphs are the ant mimics.  In fact, as they develop from one instar to the next, the nymphs exhibit a variety of colors to more closely match different ant species of similar sizes (see examples at BugGuide). In addition to mimicking the appearance of the ants, the Texas bow-legged bug nymphs also walk and move their antennae like ants.

Texas bow-legged bugs feed on the seed pods of a number of legumes (Fabaceae), including rattlebush, Sesbania drummondii. They are also reported feeding on milkweed seed pods. Ants are commonly found tending aphids on the same plants.

Just goes to show appearances can be deceiving.


Paulo S. Olviera. (1985) On the mimetic association between nymphs of Hyalymenus spp. (Hemiptera: Alydidae) and ants. Journal of the Linnean Society, 83:  371-384. (.pdf)

Anting by Squirrels and Other Animals

Happy 2014 everyone! With a new year comes a resolution to liven things up here at Wild About Ants.

What about squirrels rolling around on ants?

The video author calls this “anting.” Hum, do you see any evidence of ants?

Anting has long been described in birds. Birds may pick up the ants in their beaks and wipe their body with the ants’ bodies, which is called active anting or “self-anointing.” On the other hand (or wing), they may simply squat or lie on an anthill shaking their wings and tail to stir up the ants, a behavior which is called passive anting.

Why do birds expose themselves to ants? The most common suggestion is that the ants’ defensive chemicals help combat the birds’ parasites. Other possibilities are that the ant chemicals relieve the itch of molting. Some birdwatchers have even suggested anting may be addictive for birds.

Back to squirrels, when I looked into this further I found out Doris C. Hauser wrote an article in the Feb. 1964 Journal of Mammalogy (Vol. 45, No. 1, pp. 136-138) called “Anting by Gray Squirrels” where she describes observing several gray squirrels digging around on and laying near ant mounds.

John T. Longino reports a case of “True anting by the capuchin, Cebus capucinus” in the April 1984 (Volume 25, Issue 2, pp 243-245) issue of Primates. In his literature review he also mentions A. H. Chisholm noticing anting in cats (for example, see this newspaper report from The Argus, October 23, 1954.)

Of course, humans are getting into the act, too. The Times of India reports in the December 8, 2013 article “Soap made from an ant hill? Try it out” mud from ant hills is used in rural India as a beauty treatment and now is being marketed as a soap additive. Okay, so it isn’t live ants yet, but are they far behind?

Yes, I doubt it, as well. I know there have definitely been times when I have gone to extremes to avoid being covered by certain kinds of ants.

Have you ever observed animals anting? What do you think of this behavior?

National Moth Week Starts Today

The second annual National Moth Week starts today, July 20, 2013 and runs through July 28, 2013.

Why moths? As the news release says, in part:

Moths are part of the Lepidoptera insect order, but don’t get the same respect or admiration that their colorful daytime cousins – butterflies – do. Yet, there are hundreds of thousands of moth species, many as beautiful as butterflies, and just as important or more to the ecosystem. Moths also can tell us a lot about our changing environment by their geographical and seasonal distribution.

National Moth Week literally shines a much-needed spotlight on moths and their ecological importance as well as their biodiversity. The event allows people of all ages to become “citizen scientists” and contribute scientific data about moths they observe in their own communities. Participating in National Moth Week can be as simple as turning on a porch light at night and watching what happens, or going outside in daylight to find caterpillars and diurnal moths, often mistaken for butterflies.

To observe National Moth Week, we just might let some Lepidoptera visit Wild About Ants.

How do ants and Lepidoptera get along? Interactions include:

1. Ants are known to be predators of caterpillars and moths.

How do ants catch something that can fly when they can’t fly? The answer is shown in this video:

Also, see Ants Use Velcro to Catch Large Prey at Smithsonian Magazine.

2. Ants also tend the caterpillars of blue butterflies, protecting them. More about this later in the week.

3. Ants scavenge dead moths that end up on the ground.

4. Probably a certain number of interactions are like this one, where the participants may not even be aware of one another.


 Sounds a bit like a lot of aspects of life, doesn’t it?

Are you doing anything special for National Moth Week?


Do You Know Where Your Honey Is (From)?

Do you feed your ants honey? It might be time to make sure of your source.

According to this article in Western Farm Press, the Chinese have been exporting a lot of honey to the United States and that “the laundered Chinese honey often contains harmful antibiotics, lead, molasses, fructose, farm chemicals…”

That last part caught my attention. I often offer ants a mixture of honey-water if I need to hold them for a few days or if I want them to hold still for a photograph. Even though the article is a bit, er, flamboyant, perhaps it is time to evaluate the source of the honey I purchase more carefully.

Unfortunately, just because the bottle says “Made in the USA” there is evidence that at least some of the honey may be from imported sources. Natural honey contains bits of pollen and investigators realized that by identifying sources of the pollen in a given batch of honey they could identify the area of origin of the honey. The smugglers quickly began filtering the honey to remove any traces of pollen. Now investigators look for the amount of pollen in samples of honey and if they don’t find any pollen, it is a good chance the honey came from a filtered foreign source. This article at CNN names stores that were tested and the results.

Although steps are probably being taken to remedy the situation, it seems like it is a good time to establish a relationship with your local beekeepers.

The original report:

Asian Honey, Banned in Europe, Is Flooding U.S. Grocery Shelves at Food Safety News