Researchers have discovered a species of spider eating wasp that has taken the unusual step of using dead ants to protect its nest. This new wasp species was discovered in the Jiangxi province, South East China. It has been christened the ‘bone-house’ wasp (Deuteragenia ossarium sp.) after historical ossuaries in monasteries and graveyards, which are covered sites filled with human skeletons.
Their unusual nest protecting strategy sees the wasps kill ants and place the bodies in a protective vestibular cell on the outer layer of the nest. Researchers found that the bone-house wasp nests had a lower parasitism rate than other wasp species who did not use ant protection.
It seems that the chemical cues produced by the dead ants acts as a camouflaging odour, giving the wasp nest the scent of an ant colony. The bone-house wasps natural enemies search for their host mainly by scent, so by building a barrier of ant carcasses the bone-house wasps nest attempts to fool them into believing they are approaching an aggressive ant colony instead of a wasps nest.
Other cavity nesting wasp species have been known to incorporate fragments of ants and other arthropods to help camouflage nests and there are some snakes that only lay their eggs in the fungus chambers of aggressive ant nests (such as the leaf-cutter ant) for protection.
However it seems the bone-house wasp has a most unique and effective nest protecting strategy, if you don’t mind smelling like an ant colony. It brings a whole new meaning to using antiperspirant !
More details of the research were published in the journel PLOS ONE.