How to Manipulate an Ant

August 17th, 2015

We have known for some time about a particular fungal spore, called Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, which infects ants and kills them while also taking over their bodies and forcing them to latch onto a leaf far away from their home to spread the fungal spores further. But recent scientific research has led to the discovery that certain types of butterflies also take advantage of manipulating ants as a method of guarding their caterpillars.

Unlike with the fungus, the Oakblue butterflies use mind altering drugs while keeping the ants alive to do their bidding. This process is achieved by enticing the ants with a sweet nectar that is laced with a chemical that increases the ant’s aggression and limits their mobility so they are almost forced to stay around the caterpillar and defend it from other intruders such as wasps.

This practice, utilized both by the butterflies and the fungal spores suggest that because of the hive mind of the ant, each individual ant might easily be affected by mind control through drugs and other methods. This kind of information could lead to figuring out a way to control ants ourselves and get the ants to leave a home or anywhere we don’t want them, or even defend a home against other insect invaders.

The applications of this kind of process are not anywhere near soon, but the implications of the possibility of this could lead to an era where we don’t need to kill the ants and possibly other insects and instead just move them to an area of wilderness nearby. Or maybe the Oakblue butterflies have simply found the perfect concoction that happens to manipulate ants and manipulating them in other ways might not be possible.

What do you think?

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