Video Shows Ants Mating with Dying, Half-Eaten Queen

We can't all be picky about our mates, and ants even less so. A new video taken by Adrián Skippy Purkart, a wildlife photographer from Slovakia, shows the ants swarming around repeatedly mating with their dying queen as a crab spider is consuming her head first. Sexy!

"I can't imagine anything more unpleasant than being sucked dry by a crab spider latched to my skull. Other than the same, but simultaneously being assaulted by a sex-crazed drone swarm," insect photographer Alex Wild said in a blog post.

The ants, a species called Prenolepis nitens, are a part of the ant genus commonly called the "false honey ants" or "winter ants." They are drawn to the female even though she is dying because she is still sending out chemical cues, researchers said.

"Mating in insects is facilitated by simple cues and signals. In many insects, including ants, the stimuli that induce males to attempt mating with a female are largely chemical," ant researcher Walter Tschinkel, of Florida State University, told LiveScience in an email. "Technically, this queen is not yet fully dead, and the chemical signals she emanates are undoubtedly still strong."

The video shows how strong the insect's mating behaviors are — These chemical cues are so strong the male ants are in a frenzy to mate with her, unfazed by her death and even the near presence of the crab spider predator.

"She is probably releasing tons of pheromones and the males are too hopped up on those pheromones to be very discriminating," researcher Rob Dunn, of North Carolina State University, told LiveScience in an email. "They are wasting time, but the vast majority of male ants die without mating at all, so they aren't wasting more time than average."

"I know folks that spend half their waking hours on Facebook," Tschinkel said. "That has about the same chance of increasing their fitness as does mating with a dead queen."

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Jennifer Welsh

Jennifer Welsh is a Connecticut-based science writer and editor and a regular contributor to Live Science. She also has several years of bench work in cancer research and anti-viral drug discovery under her belt. She has previously written for Science News, VerywellHealth, The Scientist, Discover Magazine, WIRED Science, and Business Insider.