By Steve MarmeloffAssociated PressAssociated PressPublished Nov 05, 2018 12:11AMCOLUMBIA, S.C. — Ants may not have a name, but they do have a favorite snack: water.
When it comes to feeding, ant species tend to prefer water.
Ants feed on plant roots and other debris in soil.
And they’re a huge fan of drinking water.
In some species, water is essential for their survival.
In other species, the water is used to grow food for themselves.
And in some species — such as the common salt marsh ant, a member of the family Culicidae, and the brown salt marsh beetle, a family of salt marsh insects — water is even used to fertilize eggs and other young.
It’s a complicated mix, but scientists are starting to understand why ant species can find water so beneficial.
Ants are unique among invertebrates in their ability to take up water in order to survive.
Some insects, like bees, are able to use the same water to grow and feed.
But some animals, like the brown sea urchin and the salt marsh butterfly, are not so fortunate.
Ant-feeding is a mystery.
In some species of the salt marshes and the rusty patched bermuda, the insects feed on the water that the algae they eat produces.
In others, the algae only produces water that is in direct contact with the water.
Scientists studying ant-feeding in salt marshed salt marsh beetles and salt marsh butterflies are beginning to piece together the clues.
They’ve discovered that when ants are thirsty, they’ll move to deeper water and wait for a chance to drink.
That way, they can collect as much water as they can before returning to their original location, where they can refill their reservoirs.
They don’t like to get wet, so they’ll take as much as they need, then return to their preferred location.
Ant feeding also helps the ants survive.
Ant larvae may survive a trip down a salt marsh, but if they can’t survive long enough to survive, they may starve.
When ants have to dig up a food source, they’re usually using their mandibles to cut open plant roots to reach it.
Ant mandibles also help them find water.
The salt marsh larvae are able, however, to dig deeper, and they dig in deeper, too.
Ant larvae need water to survive in salt marsh habitats, and water is what the ants need.
But scientists haven’t yet discovered what exactly causes ants to take water to drink, and why it makes them so thirsty.
Ant researchers hope that understanding the connection between ants and their water intake will help scientists develop better ant-water management practices.
Scientists have been studying ant feeding for more than a decade, and there are still many questions to be answered about the ant’s water requirements.
Ant species have been observed taking water to reproduce, but the exact mechanism of reproduction remains a mystery, because ants don’t reproduce by consuming the pollen, nectar or other food the insects provide.
Researchers also don’t know what chemicals are used to make ant-infused food.
Some researchers think that ant-derived chemicals may help to protect ants from other predators, like humans.
Ant scientists are trying to understand the mechanisms of how the ants use water to feed and survive.
Ant researcher Kristina Linsman has been studying the interactions between ants, algae and plants to understand what factors determine how ants use their water.
She said, “There are a number of things that are involved.
How does it come from the environment?
How does the algae or plant do it?
How much water does it need?
How fast is the algae growing?
How long does it take?
These are all different processes.”
Ant researchers also hope to learn about the impact that some ant-produced chemicals have on other animals and humans.
Ant-infusion chemicals have been linked to allergic reactions, but researchers don’t yet know how these reactions develop in animals.
Ant experts are still trying to figure out what causes ants’ water to become so thirsty, but this is just the beginning.
“Ants, like other invertebrate species, have evolved to have these unique relationships with the earth, with other animals, with plants,” said researcher Kristine M. Linsmann.
“We have to understand these relationships to understand how they can use their bodies to survive.”—AP Writer Brianne Dyer in Columbia, South Carolina, contributed to this report.