Is it fantastic? Yes.
Where to find them: Central Africa, South/Southeast Asia, Northern Australia.
Ants are well-known for their social organization, immense colonies, and super strength. The weaver ants, however, add another dimension to their skillset by turning their babies into sewing machines. Just days after hatching, adult weaver ants use these ant infants (called larvae) as tools to sew their homes together. You heard that right — in this case two-bug teams of adult and larvae act as needle and thread, weaving together an elaborate nest. Hanging mid-air, their homes are constructed entirely of leaves; these nests can contain thousands of workers — not to mention the queen and her stash of eggs.
But now the question is, how do they do it? The near motionless, limbless larva don’t appear to have the vitality of your modern construction worker. Well, believe it or not, these larvae are able to produce spider-like silk when stroked in the right way. So to put them to work, the adult weavers place these infants in their jaws and use their antennae to stimulate them to produce silk. Then the adults move over the leaves in a zig-zag motion while the larvae use their silk to stitch the home together. In the weaver ant world you start work young, but this child-labor has allowed these ants to become a dominant force in their environment, enabling them to craft homes wherever leaves are present.
Their powers extend beyond just the nursery. Weaver ants have some of the most complex chemical signals of any ant. Chemical signals release smells into the air, and the ants use them to communicate with other workers/soldiers in the colony. In one species of weaver ant they release specific, individual odors to: leave a trail to food, alarm fellow ants of danger, gather the troops for scouting, alert other bugs of trespassing, and tell nest mates to attack. Imagine sniffing the air and thinking “Oh you smell that? It’s time to fight!” Maybe it’s the same odor Dwayne the Rock Johnson kept smelling in the WWE ring. Oh, and did I mention they can shoot acid?
So overall, I think this six-legged seamstress is pretty fantastic and a great start to this weekly series. Listen to our good friend, Attenborough talk about some of these out of this world behaviors being put into practice: