Japanese Oakblue with its attendant ants

Caterpillar drugs ants to turn them into zombie bodyguards

Jul 31st, 2015 Interactions 1 min read

Kill, Fido! Docile ants become aggressive guard dogs after a secret signal from their caterpillar overlord. The idea turns on its head the assumption that the two species exchange favours in an even-handed relationship. The caterpillars of the Japanese oakblue butterfly (Narathura japonica) grow up wrapped inside leaves on oak trees. To protect themselves against predators like spiders and wasps, they attract ant bodyguards, Pristomyrmex punctatus, with…

Plant coats itself in dead bodies to defend against pests

Jul 24th, 2015 Interactions 1 min read

The serpentine columbine has found an elaborate way to protect itself from predators. The sticky herb is a favorite snack of Heliothis phloxiphaga moth larvae, which munch its buds, flowers, and fruits. But instead of trying to attack the creepy-crawlies directly, the columbine sends out a chemical signal that attracts dragonflies, beetles, and other insects. When these bugs land on the plant, they get stuck on its…