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Smart Bug Roundup

October 14, 2005

An Amazonian ant’s strange behavior has made people think that demons are at work. Now scientists have discovered what’s really going on.


Forest-farming ants. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

In the Amazon rainforest are areas known as Devil’s Gardens, where nothing grows except a single type of ebony tree. Legends say that demons cultivate these tree farms. But now biologists report that ants that live in the hollow stems of these trees, are the real culprits. If another kind of tree pops up in their territory, the ants quickly attack it, injecting formic acid into its leaves. By allowing only the ebony trees to grow, the ants form enormous colonies.

In other news, researchers trained some bumblebees to prefer artificial flowers that were green– a color they’d normally ignore. Other bumblebees got to watch these bees feeding at the green flowers. When released, the untrained bees flew right past orange flowers they’d normally visit, to get to the green ones they’d seen other bees enjoying.

I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.