The Smithsonian Institution of Equatorial Research (STRI) in Panama, following an experiment by a group of students, found that the Aztec Alfari ant repairs wounds in a peaceful coexistence with scorpion trees in exchange for living in their bodies.
For the first time, a student noticed during a game that a hole he had made with a slingshot on the trunk of a scorpion tree had been repaired in less than 24 hours. Surprised by this, he and five of his friends conducted an experiment on several other trees and saw a similar result. Finally, the Smithsonian Institution carried out the scientific work of this study and published its written result in the Journal of Hymenoptera Research.
Aztec Alfari ants build their houses in the trunks of these trees and use their nutritious sap. Instead, vegetarians are not allowed to damage the trees, and if part of the tree is damaged, they will quickly repair it. “I was absolutely amazed at the results of the research and was impressed by the simple method with which the students experimented with the idea of repairing the ant house,” said William Wieslow, a STRI genealogist.
This is especially true when the ant colony is near damage and their eggs, larvae or pupae are at risk. The restoration process is done with the help of materials that are present in the tree itself, but this process is not always the same. In fact, out of every 22 holes, only 14 are repaired. That’s why more research is needed.
Aztec ants close some pores after entering the scrupulous trees, and from this it can be concluded that the main purpose is more to protect themselves than to help the tree. Other ants’ behavior confirms this: they moved eggs during the experiments before repairing the tree. Therefore, it is possible that the vulnerable members of the colony were not at risk when the holes were not repaired.