FILIPINO-Canadian comedian and singer Mikey Bustos has discovered in his backyard an ant species that has never been recorded in the Philippines.
The 42-year-old content creator shared on social media that he discovered the ant species in his home in Cavite in 2021, and later learned that it was the Meranoplus bicolor.
The Meranoplus bicolor can be found in other countries, but it has never been seen in the Philippines.
In his vlog titled How My Favourite Ant Colony Grew From Nothing, Bustos described Meranoplus bicolor as “cute but tough-looking ants, with a peachy body fuzz.”
Its other features include a “heart-shaped gaster, a unique red and black bumpy body” and “two protruding spikes that jutted out of their backs, making them look so menacing,” he said.
Meranoplus bicolor actively hunts and eats fire ants, which gained them a “frightful reputation” among other creatures in his yard, he said.
Bustos, who runs a YouTube channel dedicated to ant-keeping called AntsCanada, also showed in his vlog how a Meranoplus bicolor queen ant gives birth to a colony, whose members are characterized as “workers.”
One characteristic that makes the queen ant different from the workers is that it has no back spines, he noted.
Not a new species
Bustos learned that the ants in his backyard were the Meranoplus bicolor, also known as the bicolored shield ant, after he sent the specimen to his friend Dr. Dave General, who is an ant taxonomist from the University of the Philippines Los Baños.
While this species is new to the Philippines, Meranoplus bicolor is not a new ant species and can be found in other Asian countries.
“The species was already discovered and named many years ago by someone else. But scientists had no record of it in the Philippines ever, until I found it in my yard in Cavite where I live in 2021,” Bustos said in the comment section of his Facebook post.
The YouTuber said Meranoplus bicolor has officially become the 555th ant species to be recorded in the Philippines, and that he was given credit for its discovery.
“I was surprised to find out today, as I was doing more research on the species, that I’ve been credited for the geographical scientific discovery of the ant, which I am now raising a colony of, for the Philippines. So cool!” he said.
He continued, “It’s amazing what one might find lurking in our own backyards, if only more people took the time to look.”
In his vlog, Bustos asked his viewers what new name they would give to Meranoplus bicolor, which he temporarily called “species 555.”
He also asked for suggestions for a new home for the ants, which are currently being observed in a test tube.
Brand new ant species?
Bustos revealed that it was not only the Meranoplus bicolor that he discovered, but also another ant “that may actually be a brand new species.”
He is still waiting for confirmation on this, he said.
“I am still awaiting verification but so far, according to Dr. Dave General, this new ant I caught, also from my yard, looks like nothing taxonomists have seen or recorded in our part of the world,” he said.
He shared a photo of the potential brand new species which, he said, comes from the genus Crematogaster. But the ant species do not look like any Crematogaster ant that has been discovered either in the country or in other Southeast Asian nations, he said.
“They’re arboreal and nest within wood. Super cute, too! Hoping it’s a new species! Wouldn’t that be exciting?” he said.
He would be sharing updates about the ant species in AntsCanda YouTube channel, he said.