Rebeca Rosengaus of Northeastern University was impressed with the variety of experiments and analyses in the new study, which she says “provides further support that social immunity is a real phenomenon, not only in ants, but also in termites and probably eusocial wasps and bees, too.” In earlier work Rosengaus discovered that termites exposed to a fungus warn one another by “essentially having a seizure”—hopping around like crazy and banging their heads against their nest walls to keep healthy peers away. She also found evidence that ants spread immunity to bacterial infections by transmitting immune proteins in droplets of food passed from one ant’s mouth to another. “It goes against what you might think. Because there are so many individuals living so closely together, if one gets sick, chances are someone else would get sick, but through social immunization the entire colony seems to be doing better.”
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