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Subterranean Sap Sucking Aphids and their Lemon Scented Overlords

Citronella Ants are Yellow! But not this one and that’s not how they got their name. They are called Citronella because if you startle them they make a Citronella stink. I am fond of beings who communicate chemically and particularly fond of animals that live underground and can fly. There are some birds who do it, and mushrooms too if you count sporulating as flying. Today during dinner this Queen Citronella Ant landed on our table and dropped her wings.

Citronella queen dropping her wings

She was born underground to a Queen, I suppose you could say that almost all ants are Princesses, but most of them are worker princesses who tend the farms, in this case: the subterranean plant sucking Aphids that produce a sweet honeydew that the Ants eat! Those worker Ants always stay underground. But not this Princess. She was chosen to become a Queen. She grew wings, flew from the nest, found a mate, I imagine that they mated in the sky, then she landed on our dinner table, dropped her wings and walked off in search of the site for her new colony.

Tonight she will begin to dig and maybe make her royal chamber where she will stay for the rest of her life laying eggs that will hatch into worker larvae and… Hmm… I’m not sure how the first worker larvae are fed, but some how she will feed them until they pupate and become adults who will feed the next larvae. I bet she has a secret pocket built in just for snacks. Ants have some cool pockets. Our Queen doesn’t need to mate again, she keeps today’s sperm in a pocket for her whole life and uses it to make new female babies. The male babies she makes to fly out into the world to mate with soon-to-to-be-Queens are unfertilized. They don’t have the DNA of her King, but of their maternal grand King.

I’ve seen ants farming Aphids on the undersides of leaves and I always imagined that they just lived there on that leaf, but that’s not it. They all live underground and during the day the Ants corral the Aphids out to graze just like cowboys do with Cows, except instead of riding Horses, or using a Sheep Dog, each Ant carries an Aphid.

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