At the edge of forests in Cameroon, researchers saw gangs of up to 15 ants (Crematogaster striatula
) waft a venomous vapor from their stingers at a termite. The ants then watched from a safe distance as the much-larger victim became paralyzed, died, and later dragged back to their nest (seen in picture), the researchers report today in PLoS ONE
. The remote-action poison allows the ants to kill prey without exposing themselves to harm
. Even the threat of the poison seemed to scare off enemies, including other species of ants, which abandoned drops of honey when confronted with a loaded C. striatula
stinger. The researchers hope that once the paralyzing molecule is identified, their discovery will lead to new insecticides effective against pests that shrug off older products.