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Desert Diary

Arthropods/Honey-pot Ant


What is tiny, sweet, and hangs upside down inside an ant nest? Why a honey-pot ant, of course! Some workers cling to the roof of special chambers, and other workers feed them nectar—LOTS of it! In fact, these workers receive so much nectar that their bodies swell, and all they can do is hang from the roof as living pots of honey. The nectar is collected from desert flowers and insects. When there is not enough food, the ants get the stored nectar back from the honey-pot workers, providing both food and liquid to the rest of the colony.

These little honey-pots are sweet enough that some people eat them as candies. In fact, you can buy them in some markets in northern Mexico. Clear, yellow ants are the sweetest. Darker ants may have liquids from dead animals, so people avoid those!

Honey-pot ants are a wonderful example of animals that are well adapted to their environment. By using some ants to store food, pen and inkthe entire colony can survive in our harsh, Chihuahuan Desert climate.

Listen to the Audio (mp3 format) as recorded by KTEP, Public Radio for the Southwest.


Contributor: William Mackay, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio, University of Texas at El Paso.



Web Resources

This Thinkquest site includes a spectacular photograph of a honey-pot ant part way down the page. (You may hit an introductory page first, in which case click on Desert Explorer.)