“O LORD, how manifold are Your works! In wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full thy riches.”
Deep inside an ant colony, perhaps in a decaying log in northern Idaho or even the north woods of Minnesota, there are ants who only think they are taking care of their pupae. In addition to attending to their young, however, they are providing a dangerous ant predator with food and protection as it matures. The predator, called Microdon, matures into a fly like creature that lives only long enough to mate and lay eggs.
How does Microdon get welcomed into the ant’s nest? It folds itself in half and ends up looking just like an ant larva. When researchers exposed some of the fly larvae in an ant nest, the ants quickly rescued the folded-over Microdon as if they were ant larvae. During its first of three larval stages, Microdon enters an ant cocoon and eats the contents. During its two later stages, Microdon moves unchallenged about the nest, eating more ant larvae. This fact at first puzzled researchers, since ants communicate and identify each other through specialized chemical signals. Further research revealed that Microdon are actually able to perfectly mimic this chemical communication!
But perhaps the most fascinating feature of Microdon are the odd structures found on the outside of its third stage. These vary from individual to individual and may look like toadstools or flowers. Scientists are unsure of their purpose. But they do marvel over the rich variety of the shapes, which seem unnecessary. While such variety may be unnecessary, they and the other features of Microdon testify to the rich creativity of our Creator God.
Thank You, dear Father, for the rich variety found in Your Creation. Amen.
Gregory Paulson and Roger D. Akre, A Fly in Ant’s Clothing, Natural History, 1/94, p.56. Photo: Microdon mutabilis. Courtesy of PaulT. (CC BY-SA 3.0)