Fire ants, wombats and hypothalmus!

From:Linda Jenkins

Hi, Barry,
	You commented last week about fire ants, etc. just so happens that I work in a state that is considering 
making the fire ant our state animal and a good friend of mine happens to 
be a faculty entomologist whose passion is fire ants.  So...I queried my 
friend about fire ants and I think I have an answer for your question "do 
fire ants give each other "hickeys?".

Here is Eric's reply and I hope all the HistoNetters get as good a laugh 
out of this as I did:

"Diplomacy on list servers is a noble goal and should be encouraged. Those 
of us on Entomology list servers try to be as diplomatic as possible, 
especially when discussing past bioengineering feats such as boxers or 
briefs. However, a diplomatic discussion on the hypothalamus of insects and 
fire ant mating rituals would be difficult. First, insect's don't posses a 
hypothalamus. I might suggest deep, polite discussions on the corpora 
allata as a substitute. Second, fire ants exhibit mating behaviors, but not 
rituals, which I consider a religiously based series of acts. However, when 
being bitten and stung by fire ants, humans often behave in a series of 
acts while invoking God that could, I suppose, become the foundation of a 
ritual. Finally, concerning the imposition of a hickey on the cervix (neck) 
of two fire ants in love, one must look at the limitations of ant 
morphology. The major limiting factor is that fire ants have chewing/biting 
mouthparts, not sucking mouthparts. Instead of a pucker, oral interactions 
of two ants would be more like having Edward Scissorhands as a masseur. 
Bruising or a hickey would be the least of your problems. Actually, fire 
ant propagation occurs either by the natural budding of colonies or via 
huge mating flights, which are like orgies in air. The ants apparently have 
very, very little on their minds (especially the boy ants) other than 
getting their genes "into" the next generation. This greatly reduces any 
type of foreplay and would make the lyrics of the Meatloaf song which uses 
a baseball game analogy of love between humans, moot for a fire ant. In 
addition, happily mated females start their nests without their special 
fellas once their relationship has been consummated. The boys ants are 
destined to a very short life, usually ending as debris in a swimming pool 
skimmer or food for wandering armadillos. A hickey would only be a dream.
I hope you find this information useful."

PS:  Just so you know that this is also histology related...I have been 
trying to get a plastic cast of some of Eric's fire ant habitat's...not 
successful yet!


Linda Jenkins
Clemson University
Bioengineering Department
Clemson, SC

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