Honey Pot Ant: only insect that uses its body for storage

Buket Soyyılmaz
Jul 11, 2016 · 3 min read

It is ordinary to see bees or wasps producing honey. Probably few of us have heard the ‘honey pot ants’ that are literally living food storages. Some ants in the colony’s lower hierarchy carry a delicacy in order to feed their worker ant buddies. The honey they produce is stored in their abdomens which
make them seem as if their butts have swollen into bubbles.

I have seen these rare ant species (Myrmecocystus mexicanus) in Mexico near Oaxaca. For me it was simply an interesting and mostly bizarre food activity to be tried once and maybe shared on Instagram later on. Yet the indigenous locals that took me to dig up the ant nest were actually feeding on these regularly with other insects such as oakworms and grasshoppers. Living in a
remote village on the mountains near Oaxaca, they have learned the art of discovering the right spots for the valuable honey pot ant nests. They did not have many protein sources except for insects. They ran through their childhood seeking for these ants for their nutritious value, sweet flavor and high water content.
They dig the soil deep down as delicate as possible not to harm the possible encountering of bubble ants. These living pots live out with the burden of providing the nutritious honey. As the bubbles get fuller they get slower and slower, further on become immobilized and imprisoned in the nest
caused by the grape sized honey balls on their butts.

Digging carefully to find the ant nest

I have also had the chance to taste the butts. After reaching the nest we looked carefully to spot the pot ants. The ants are either hanging still or moving through the soil gradually. It is easy to detect them, the bubbles are shiny and big but it is hard to tell the consistency just from looking. At this
point I just pick one ant up and suck its butt. It needs no effort, once you touch the butt with your tooth it blows and drops into your mouth.
The taste is no foreign at all. It resembles regular bee’s honey though slightly more acidic, even fermented. I have to admit I had a couple of them thinking that this will be the only time in my life that I get to have this. They indeed sacrifice themselves for the survival of the fellows; the ants die
once their food storage have been used. I left the place hoping that this does not become a commercial food product because it is so incredibly perfect as it is in its own cycle.

gastronome from Istanbul

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