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Examination of Honey in Australian Honey-ants


THE honey-ant (Melophorus inflatus) is found in many parts of central Australia, where it is highly regarded by the aborigines as an article of food1,2. The honey-bearing ants seem to be modified workers which are fed with nectar or honey by ordinary workers until their distended abdomens approach 3 8 in. in diameter1. “In eating them the native seizes each with the fingers by the forepart of the body and, after blowing off the dust, places the distended abdomen of the insect in the mouth and bites it off, letting the slightly acid honey flow over the tongue with evident satisfaction. The abdomen is swallowed while the remainder of the body is discarded”3. Colonies of these ants are generally found in rather arid country often near mulga trees. Little seems to be known of their habits, or of the origin of the honey, which is apparently stored against a barren season4. As a contribution to this problem, we have now examined the carbohydrate constituents of this honey.

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  3. McKeown, K. C., “Insect Wonders of Australia” (Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1944).

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BADGER, G., KORYTNYK, W. Examination of Honey in Australian Honey-ants. Nature 178, 320–321 (1956).

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