London: Worker ants from an African species can paralyse and kill termites from afar due to a potent venom they carry, reveals new research that could prove helpful in the search for natural insecticides.

The study led by researcher Angelique Vetillard of the University of Toulouse, France, characterised the specific chemicals in the venom, providing initial clues about the source of the venom toxicity.

'The implications are promising because they provide a basis from which further studies can be conducted in the search for natural insecticides, including new molecules effective against insects resistant to currently-used insecticides,' said Vetillard.

The research based on Crematogaster striatula species showed that chemicals in the worker ants' arsenal have three functions: they attract nearby nestmates; repel alien ants; and paralyse and kill termites, the journal Public Library of Science reported. 
While the first two require the ants to come into direct contact with the chemical, it appears that the termite effect can occur from afar, said a university statement.

This is important because while alien ants competing for sugary food sources will retreat upon sensing the chemical, termites remain and defend their territory.

The long-range activity of the ant venom protects them from the termites without having to come into direct contact.

(Agencies)