When Very Hungry Caterpillars go bad

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From this week's Zoologger column in New Scientist:

In a grassy field on the edge of a patch of woodland, some ants are escorting a pink caterpillar to their home. Once it has been guided into the depths of their nest, the caterpillar begins feeding the ants with sweet fluids.

It may sound like a touching story of interspecies love, but it ain't. Over the following year, the caterpillar will eat its way through hundreds of ants, eggs and larvae. So voracious is the intruding caterpillar, there is a good chance that the ant colony will be wiped out.

This deceitful ant-muncher is the caterpillar of the large blue butterfly - in adult form, a strikingly beautiful creature with iridescent, spotted wings. But in order to reach adulthood, the caterpillars must infiltrate the ants' homes, and they have an arsenal of less than beautiful tricks for that purpose...

I like to imagine that lead being read by David Attenborough.

New Scientist: Zoologger: The very hungry caterpillar usurps a queen

Image courtesy Flickr user oddharmonic, via CC

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