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Living Larders

A special caste of worker ants known as repletes, these insects gorge on nectar ... swelling to the size of grapes.

  • Mitsuhiko Imamori
  • Feb 01, 2009

IN CENTRAL AUSTRALIA, honeypot ants (Camponotus inflatus) hang from the ceiling of their underground nest. A special caste of workers known as repletes, these insects gorge on nectar (collected outside the nest by foragers), swelling to the size of grapes.

Inhabitants of arid ecosystems, this and other species of honeypot ant depend on repletes during the dry season. When stimulated by hungry nest mates, they regurgitate their nourishing nectar directly into the mouths of the insects. In parts of Australia, Aborigines also get in on the act, excavating the ants’ nests and feasting on repletes for a sweet treat.

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