Adventures in Cota Rica: Part I
My wife and I went to Costa Rica for our honeymoon in March. Prior to leaving I had warned her that bring me, a biologist and all around nature nerd, into the neotropical rain forest was a dangerous idea. I was worried that I would spend every waking moment exploring each insect, frog or other critter on the trip. This was not too far from what actually happened. I spent an amazing week with my wonderful wife and also got an opportunity to see some awesome critters and other amazing lifeforms.
One of my first encounters with the local wildlife in Costa Rica was an unknown species of ant. I affectionately dubbed them 20 min ants. I call them this because their sting feels like a hot injection of Tabasco sauce for about 20 minutes. These little punks seemed to find their way into bed just about every night. This meant I spent more that a couple of “20 mins” feeling the burn! These little guys pack a big punch!
All ants aren’t full of Tabasco sauce and vinegar. This is a picture of agriculture in the insect world. The small black bumps on this bromeliad are small leaf hoppers. I initially thought that the ants were attacking the leaf hoppers as most ant probably would. After watching them for 15 minutes I realized that the leaf hoppers were not bothered by the ants. In fact that ants were eating the “honeydew” from the leaf hoppers. Honeydew is a fancy word for poop. In actuality it is simply sugar water. Some ants take this to the next level. They actually “farm” their leaf hoppers or aphids. They move their herd to the most productive part of the plant and reap the benefits of sweet honeydew. In exchange the herd is protected from enemies and fiercely guarded with the threat of a formic acid injection from their ant protectors.
Up Next: Insect and Bugs: What’s the difference?