Science: How to tease your fellow ants even more

Remember my previous post about ants throwing rocks in the entrance of other nests?

Turns out that there is another ant that takes this interference behaviour to a whole new level. In the Lower Sonoran desert, two ant species like the same food, namely seeds. These ants are Pogonomyrmex barbatus and Novomessor cockerelli.

Pogonomyrmex barbatus carrying a seed back home

Pogonomyrmex barbatus carrying a seed back home. Picture by Alex Wild (

Pogonomyrmex likes to collect seeds during the morning, before it gets too hot in the afternoon. Novomessor however, likes to find food in the evening. Because they like the same food, Novomessor decided to start teasing the Pogonomyrmex. 

In the evening, they start plugging the nest-entrances of the Pogonomyrmex with sand. This means that when the Pogonomyrmex wake up, they first have to start removing the sand from the entrance, before they can start to look for food. However, they have a big time-constraint, as the temperature is way to high in the afternoon. This basically means they have less time every morning in order to collect all their food, leaving more seeds for the Novomessor.

Gordon, D.M (1988) Nest-plugging: interference competition in desert ants (Novomessor cockerelli and Pogonomymrex barbatus). Oecologia 75:114-118

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4 Responses to Science: How to tease your fellow ants even more

  1. Another amazing case (nest plugging, food robbing, food monopolization…. ) we discovered in Mediterranean harvester ants is reported here.
    Interspecific interference behaviours by workers of the harvesting ant Messor capitatus (Hymenoptera Formicidae).

    Best regards
    Donato Grasso

  2. antyscience says:

    Thanks a lot Donato! Would you be able to send me the pdf? (nick.bos[at] My university doesn’t have the subscription apparently.

    Thanks again! :)

  3. Hello. I recently found nest plugging in Tapinoma nigerrimum (at Madrid, Spain). In this entry of my blog there are some pictures and videos:
    Another curious behaviour of T. nigerrimum is the use of stones to make barriers against the trail paths of other species. Some pictures and a short video here:

    José María

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