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Interview with the World’s First Asexual Ant

Scientists have discovered the first known species of completely asexual ants. So why’d the lady crawlers decide to dispense with dudes? We sit down with the queen to find out.

By (@JRRaphael)

August 26, 2009

The story you're about to read is not (entirely) true. It is, however, more accurate than most things on network television.

Mycocepurus smithii: Asexual AntsThe Pussycat Dolls once sang that they didn’t need a man. Turns out, though, it’s not Pussycats pushing guys away for real — it’s ants. And not the blue-haired, 80-year-old variety, either (although, to be fair, Myrtle is quite independent).

Scientists have just confirmed the world’s first completely asexual species of ants, a fungus-gardening bug known as the Mycocepurus smithii. The Cocky-Purs, as their friends and families call them, are living every angry female singer’s dream: They’ve ditched dudes altogether and given up on bumpin’, uh, tentacle thingies.

So why would a creature voluntarily say so-long to sex? We sure as hell can’t figure it out. We tracked down the queen, an ant named Beyantce (weird coincidence, we know) to get some answers.

e: Your majesty, it’s an honor.

Always glad to chat with any friend of the Cocky-Purs.

e: Well, I’m sure you know what we’re here to discuss. We humans have just learned of your species’ decision to go asexual and reproduce without male ants. What gives?

Yes, yes, you have heard correctly. The truth is, the male ants just weren’t cutting it for us. My ladies slave all day, carrying crumbs into their colonies and keeping their ant-hills clean. The men could never do so much as move an antenna to help with any housework. We’d had enough.

e: Clearly, you ants are able to reproduce without male fertilization. But don’t you miss it sometimes?
Queen Ant
Well, sure — we all crave a firm male mandible or the strong touch of a man-ant’s claw from time to time. But we know that letting a guy get his wing around you will only lead to trouble. And, to be fully honest with you, most of the Cocky-Pur men get so excited around a lady that their dorsal aorta nearly explodes before you even touch it. If you let them so much as brush their feelers against you, the whole thing is practically over before it ever begins.

e: Scientists worry that without the mixing of genes that comes from sexual reproduction, your species could be in trouble in the long-term. What’s your reaction to that?

These scientists you discuss, they are all men?

e: Well, in this particular instance, yes. The researchers were men.

I rest my case.

e: Okay, moving on. Another finding of the study was that the female ants in your species do have “sperm storage organs,” but that they’re always empty. Doesn’t that strike you as strange?

Not at all. What do we need guys shooting their sticky ant-goo into us all day for? Do you think women actually enjoy that? I know, I know… the ant-porn industry depicts females going crazy for a male ant’s fertilization, sometimes even screaming out for him to fertilize all over her exoskeleton. But women aren’t really like that.

e: Wait… they’re not?

No. Not ants, at least.

e: Oh, okay. I thought you were talking about human females, too. Because they do actually like that sort of thing, as far as I can tell.

Right. Keep on dreamin’, big shoes.

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