|Myrmica schencki worker|
Distribution and habitat
Myrmica schencki is distributed across Europe (from Great Britain, Sweden, Finland in the North to Spain, Italy and the Balkans in the South), the Caucasus, Turkey, also in West Siberia, Kazakhstan, the Tien-Shan and Altai Mountains. Also found near Krasnoyarsk in East Siberia. It inhabits dry habitats in open areas and forests. Nests are found in the ground, occasionally in tussocks of grass or moss. Colonies are polygynous with up to 1000 workers. Recent research has shown that this species may partially feed on pollen – a phenomenon rarely documented in ants.
The Myrmica schencki is parasitized by the Phengaris rebeli larvae, which release chemicals that trick the Myrmica schencki ants into believing that the butterfly larvae are ant larvae and should be brought back to the ant brood. Once brought back to the ant brood, the Myrmica schencki ants preferentially feed the Phengaris rebeli larvae over their own larvae as the P. rebeli larvae and pupa are able to mimic the sound that the queen of the ant colony makes. While the workers are unable to distinguish the queen from the P. rebeli larvae and pupa, the queen begins to treat the P. rebeli larvae and pupa as rivals. While it is less common, M. schecncki are also parasitized by Phengaris arion. Unlike P. rebeli, P. arion adopts more of a predatory relationship with the ants which is generally viewed as less successful.
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- Media related to Myrmica schencki at Wikimedia Commons