Ant larvae may increase their fitness by trying to increase their food intake, since adult morphology and quality depend on nutritional conditions during juvenile development. As larvae are legless and dependent upon workers, some sort of begging signal can be expected. We studied larval begging behaviour in the ant Gnamptogenys striatula. Workers preferentially fed larvae that were either near the food or performed a typical swaying behaviour. In this swaying behaviour, larvae raised their head and neck, and gently reached and waved towards workers or food items. Swaying duration was not, however, correlated with distance to food. In a separate experiment, hung larvae swayed more than well-fed larvae, suggesting that swaying is an important element of begging for food. Acquiring extra food through begging probably allows G. striatula larvae to manipulate their future reproductive options. (C) 2004 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.