Put up your dukes, your highness--?
This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science, and on the curiously combative lives of ant queens.
Researchers from the University of Regensburg in Germany were studying a common type of stinging ant. It usually lives in harmonious polygyny--think lots of queens producing new ants.
Many areas--like Siberian forests and central Europe--have the resources to support ant colonies with many queens.
But in some places--central Spain, for example--there can be just one queen.
The scientists in Germany observed that in rugged Spanish mountains, queen candidates have to compete for the throne. It's not pretty: The insects fight each other by boxing with their antenna or gnashing their mandibles at each other.
When one contender clearly dominates, nearby worker ants jump in to support her, uh, campaign. They're vicious: feeding their favorites, and biting, killing, or casting out the losers.
In short, being an ant queen is no picnic. Get it? Picnic? Sure.
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