A myrmecophile is an organism that lives in association with
ants. Myrmecophily literally means "ant-loving" and refers to mutualistic associations with ants, though in its more general use the term may also refer to commensal or even parasitic.
Myrmecophiles may have various roles in their host ant colony. Many consume waste materials in the nests, such as dead ants, dead larvae, or fungi growing in the nest. Some myrmecophiles, however, feed on the stored food supplies of ants, and a few are predatory on ant eggs, larvae, or pupae. Others benefit the ants by providing a food source for them. Many myrmecophilous relationships are obligate, meaning one or the other participant requires the relationship for survival. Some associations are facultative, benefiting one or both participants but not being necessary to their survival.
Myrmecophilous associations are best known in butterflies of the family
Lycaenidae. Many lycaenid caterpillars produce nectar by specialized organs and communicate with the ants through sound and vibrations. The association with ants is believed to reduce the parasitisation of the butterfly caterpillars. [cite journal |quotes=no |author=H. T. Baumgarten & K. Fiedler |year=1998 |title=Parasitoids of lycaenid butterfly caterpillars: different patterns in resource use and their impact on the hosts' symbiosis with ants |journal= Zoologischer Anzeiger|volume=236 |pages=167–180]
There are myrmecophilous beetles in the families
Cholevidae, Pselaphidae, Staphylinidaeand Ptiliidae. Myrmecophilous associations are also seen in various other insects such as aphids, and hoppers, as well as the hoverflygenus " Microdon" and several other groups of flies.. [cite journal |quotes=no |author=I. Brake |year=1999 |title="Prosaetomilichia" de Meijere: a junior subjective synonym of "Milichia" Meigen, with a phylogenetic review of the myrmecophila species-group [Diptera, Milichiidae] |journal= Tijdschrift voor Entomologie|volume=142 |issue=1 |pages=31–36]
Some mites and spiders are also myrmecophilous, particularly some oribatid mites, which have been found to be obligate myrmecophiles. [cite journal |quotes=no |author=Paula E. Cushing |year=1997 |title=Myrmecomorphy and myrmecophily in spiders: A review |journal=
Florida Entomologist|pages=165–193] [cite journal |quotes=no |author=F. Ito & G. Takaku |year=1994 |title=Obligate myrmecophily in an oribatid mite. Novel symbiont of ants in the Oriental tropics |journal= Naturwissenschaften|volume=81 |issue=4 |pages=180–182 |url=http://www.springerlink.com/content/h63505p10l1168q7/ |doi=10.1007/BF01134538]
Others myrmecophile groups include
Coleoptera, like the ladybird" Thalassa saginata"
Orthoptera, like the cricket " Myrmecophilus kinomurai"
Diptera, like the stratiomyid fly " Clitellaria obtusa"
* Molluscs, like "Allopeas myrmekophilos" [cite journal |quotes=no |author=V. Witte, R. Janssen, A. Eppenstein & U. Maschwitz |year=2002 |title="Allopeas myrmekophilos" (Gastropoda, Pulmonata), the first myrmecophilous mollusc living in colonies of the ponerine army ant "Leptogenys distinguenda" (Formicidae, Ponerinae) |journal=
Insectes Sociaux|volume=49 |issue=4 |pages=301–305 |doi=10.1007/PL00012646]
The first major work in cataloguing British myrmecophiles was done by
Horace Donisthorpein his 1927 book "The Guests of British Ants".
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