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The Death of a Queen

Jumping Ants, Coorg -

The Queen is dead; long live the Queen! This could well be the leitmotif of a parallel universe that exists in the microscopic underworld of Coorg. Shades of regicide can be seen in the image above, where a worker ant is attempting to murder the Queen just as she’s emerged after a successful mating. Welcome to the world of the Jumping Ant of Coorg, a primitive tribe that scoffs at most of the rules of respectable ant-hood. For starters, they don’t have large, ordered colonies, and prefer to exist as small groups of individuals, often created by a single queen, who’s expendable when she ceases to be useful. There also doesn’t exist, the high degree of worker specialization that’s de rigueur in other ant colonies. Stranger still, these creatures find their way using large objects like trees as markers, and navigate by the sun’s position, which is rather un-ant like behaviour. The one thing, every other ant will agree, is that Jumping Ants are fearsome warriors. They earn their name from their ability to jump almost a foot in the air to catch and dispose off their prey. This athleticism adds an edge to their already long mandibles, and they can prove to be a handful, with their bite being painful even for humans. In fact another thing that separates them from others is that, in this constitutional monarchy, even the workers can mate and lay fertilized eggs, and don’t depend on the Queen for the propagation of the species. Which is certainly not good news for the lady on the throne who must surely wonder if Shakespeare had her in mind when he wrote, ‘…uneasy lies the head that wears the crown’.

Photograph: Kalyan Varma Story: Rajesh Ramaswamy

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