Silk production by adult workers of the ant Melissotarsus emeryi (Hymenoptera, Formicidae) in South African fynbos
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In montane fynbos in South Africa Melissotarsus emeryi Forel was found nesting in live wood of Leucospermum praemorsum (Meisn.) E. Phillips, in association with armor-scale insects (Diaspididae). A loose network of silken material was found along gallery tunnels and was combined with wood particles to seal cracks in tunnel walls and to close exit holes. Our observations reveal that the silk is produced by adult workers from glands located in cuticular depressions on the ventral portion of the anterior margin of the hypostoma. Silk was applied in nest construction with the aid of modified protarsi in the form of “silk brushes.”M. emeryi is the only adult Formicidae known to produce silk and is the only record of silk production at any life stage in the Myrmicinae. We discuss silk production in Melissotarsus in relation to nest construction, defense, and diaspidid symbionts.
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