Questions from the Botulist

Dear Antboy,

I’m quite fond of Ants on a Log, but glad the ants are raisins and not real ants. Have you ever eaten an ant or any other insect? Are there any other tasty snacks or meals that are named after an insect?

Love,
Kimbot

Well, there’s a strong school of thought in field biology that you should taste your research animal so you know what the predators that go after it are tasting. I have indeed tasted various species of Cephalotes ants, and I can state pretty confidently that they are not particularly good. They have a really, really nasty alarm pheromone that they spray when they think they’re getting eaten, and besides telling all their friends in the area that something is trying to eat them, it also tastes absolutely awful.

I’m not alone in this opinion, either, as Cephalotes ants don’t tend to have a lot of natural predators that go after them specifically. However, despite the fact that most things don’t want to eat them in their normal state, they do have a very cool nematode parasite that my friend Steve Yanoviak discovered that turns their abdomen/gaster bright red:

(photo: Steve Yanoviak)

This encourages birds to bite off the infected gaster, under the impression that it’s a tasty berry and not a big old bag of nematode eggs. Once tricked, the eggs pass through the bird, the bird poops somewhere, the ants eat the poop, and the nematodes find a new host, completing the cycle. I have not tasted the nematode infested ant. I have to draw the line somewhere.

As for insect-themed food items, I’m drawing a bit of a blank at the moment, but maybe people will help me out in the comments…

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About antboy

I'm a PhD student, studying the aerodynamics of gliding in arboreal wingless ants and other insects.
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2 Responses to Questions from the Botulist

  1. kimbot says:

    wow! you eat them alive – that’s crazy! To be totally honest, i like red ant butts (and i cannot lie)!

  2. Logan says:

    Does bug juice count?

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