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Ant–fungus mutualism is a symbiosis seen in certain ant and fungal species, in which ants actively cultivate fungus much like humans farm crops as a food source. In some species, the ants and fungi are dependent on each other for survival. The leafcutter ant is a well-known example of this symbiosis. A mutualism with fungi is also noted in some species of termites in Africa.
- "Ant–fungus mutualism" | 2017-02-23 | 45 Upvotes 1 Comments
The Schmidt insect sting pain index
The Schmidt sting pain index is a pain scale rating the relative pain caused by different hymenopteran stings. It is mainly the work of Justin O. Schmidt (born 1947), an entomologist at the Carl Hayden Bee Research Center in Arizona, United States. Schmidt has published a number of papers on the subject, and claims to have been stung by the majority of stinging Hymenoptera.
His original paper in 1983 was a way to systematize and compare the hemolytic properties of insect venoms. A table contained in the paper included a column that rated sting pain, starting from 0 for stings that are completely ineffective against humans, progressing through 2, a familiar pain such as that caused by a common bee or wasp sting, and finishing at 4 for the most painful stings; in the original paper, only the bullet ant, Paraponera clavata, was given a rating of 4. Later revised versions of the index added Synoeca septentrionalis, along with tarantula hawks as the only species to share this ranking. In later versions, some descriptions of the most painful examples were given, e.g.: "Paraponera clavata stings induced immediate, excruciating pain and numbness to pencil-point pressure, as well as trembling in the form of a totally uncontrollable urge to shake the affected part."
Schmidt has repeatedly refined his scale, including a paper published in 1990, which classifies the stings of 78 species and 41 genera of Hymenoptera, and culminating in a book published in 2016.
An entry in The Straight Dope reported that "implausibly exact numbers" which do not appear in any of Schmidt’s published scientific papers were "wheedled out of him" by Outside magazine for an article it published in 1996.
In September 2015, Schmidt was co-awarded the Ig Nobel Physiology and Entomology prize with Michael Smith for their Hymenoptera research.
- "The Schmidt insect sting pain index" | 2021-01-25 | 15 Upvotes 8 Comments
An ant mill is an observed phenomenon in which a group of army ants are separated from the main foraging party, lose the pheromone track and begin to follow one another, forming a continuously rotating circle, commonly known as a "death spiral" because the ants might eventually die of exhaustion. It has been reproduced in laboratories and has been produced in ant colony simulations. The phenomenon is a side effect of the self-organizing structure of ant colonies. Each ant follows the ant in front of it, which works until a slight deviation begins to occur, typically by an environmental trigger, and an ant mill forms. An ant mill was first described in 1921 by William Beebe, who observed a mill 1200 ft (~370 m) in circumference. It took each ant 2.5 hours to make one revolution. Similar phenomena have been noted in processionary caterpillars and fish.
- "Ant mill" | 2022-01-22 | 251 Upvotes 154 Comments