The Fijian farmer ant (Philidris nagasau) looks unremarkable, but it has an extraordinary partnership with several species of plants, which it has domesticated to meet its own needs.
Worker ants place Squamellaria seeds high up in the crevices of tree bark and fertilize them with their own bodily waste. The seedlings sprout into strange, alien-looking growths with round, swollen bases. These odd structures are domatia: homes for ants. Inside are all the tunnels and comforts a growing colony could want.
After the plant flowers, it provides another reward for its keepers - sweet nectar stores that only the ants can reach. The nectar is held in the cuplike base of the flower beneath a membrane, which is revealed only when the petals drop off. Other pollinators ignore the spent-looking resource, but the little farmer ants can pierce this membrane and obtain the plant's sweet nourishment.
In return, the tiny farmers defend the plant and ensure that the next generation of seeds is cultivated with care.
Originally for the April 2022 Bug Box, this pin features a worker ant approaching the hidden treasure at the base of a shed flower.
Double posted, soft enamel + epoxy. Comes on a kraft Bug Box backer card.
Pinfo: the standard edition is unnumbered and features all solid enamel. The LE 15 glitter edition was only available by chance in the deluxe Bug Box of April 2022. The LE 5 uberglitter edition was only available by auction.