Ants, a most Amazing Species
By: J. Marlando
One of my most vivid childhood memories is going outside to play in my grandmother’s big, front yard. In her yard there were two types of ants—red ants and black ants. It only took one experience to understand that the red ants were not friendly. One day I took an interest in a red ant hill
When I was a kid I wanted an ant farm but never got one. This was probably because I also wanted gold fish but never took care of them or maybe because I let the guinea pig out of its cage to never to be seen again?
Ants, however, are amazing to watch especially since each individual ant seems to know what his job is. However, a recent Stanford study tells us that there is no one giving orders. Yet an ant doing housekeeping duties may suddenly become a forager when the need arises. Because no one is in charge of the colony, including the queen, how do individual ants know exactly what to do?
Researchers offer that ants, and other animals and fish that operate in the collective—we’ve all seen birds doing this
As a quick aside, this phenomenon might shed light on how two electrons communicate millions of miles apart? In regard to this, what is interesting is that it is estimated that the ant’s brain is made up of 250,000 brain cells while the human brain is around 10,000 million…a thought, however, is that there is a body/mind as opposed to a brain/mind which most scientific thinkers believe is the case; that mind is a mere process of the brain. If this was true, however, then, it seems that a collective intelligence would not be possible. Food for thought!
Ants are incredible creatures and this article sets out to share a lot of their incredible story with you.
Ants in Overview
When I was a young man one of the funniest jokes I knew was to ask people how many sexes there are. Most answered two and I would say, three—the male sex, the female sex and the insects. Hmmm, doesn’t sound as funny as I used to think it was. In any case, there are around 900,000 known species of insects around our globe and billions of individual insects running about. Ants are among the most unique and interesting: If, for example, a person could run as fast for his or her size as an ant can, we humans would be as fast as race horses. As for strength, the common ant can lift 20 times its own weight. Incidentally, the New York Times reported that for every pound of humans, the world holds 300 pounds of insects.
The average lifespan of an ant is around two months but the queen can live for years. Her job is to keep the colony populated. Like bees they have compound eyes or, in other words each eye is made up of many smaller eyes.
Nearly all ants are homebodies but the South American Army Ants
There are also around 47 species of Leafcutter Ants
What is also interesting about the Leafcutter is that they are known to have the largest and most complex (animal) societies on the planet. Beneath their mounds some nests are nearly 100 feet across containing 8 million individuals. That’s only 4 million short of the population of Las Angeles in people but around 7 times more populated than San Diego.
As another aside, human farming just began around 10,000 years ago. We are the forth species to discover agriculture since ants, termites and bark beetles started cultivating their own food some 50 million years ago.
What about Queen Ants?
Becoming a queen ant is based on the colony’s food supply not on the colony’s choices. When food and other resources are low, all larvae develop into female worker ants. As in some third countries we see hunger produce underdeveloped human beings, often quite short and some with weakened immune systems, the lack of care and nourishment in ant colonies produce similar results. However, when the colony’s resources are high, some of the larvae receive better nourishment than others and they develop into winged, sexually mature female ants. Many colonies have more than one queen, even a few hundred in large, ant populations depending on the species.
When conditions are hot and humid, say after a rain, the winged lady ants leave the colony and fly long distances to mate with at least one winged male from another nest (colony). The male delivers sperm to the seminal receptacle of the queen
After the mating, the queen will seek a suitable place to start a colony and once she has chosen a location, she will settle in and…detach her wings. She will spend the rest of her life populating her community. Incidentally, some female ants do not even need a male to produce her offspring; she produces through asexual parthenogenesis; for ants, a kind of natural cloning process through which the queen delivers her offspring without male fertilization. In those cases, all her offspring are born female.
Once again, it should be noted, however, that the “queen” is not at all the colony’s ruler, which takes us back to the theory of a collective intelligence. At least in observation, a colony of even millions of ants have no leadership or directors. It is like a million minds weaved into a single mind and yet, at the same time, duties in a colony changes for individual ants so I am personally still baffled by the “collective intelligent” theory. What I favor is the Universal Mind view that individual minds can tap into. (It’s all such an amazing contemplation).
As for species, there are far too many to name here but here is a list of the most common ants found around the globe.
Odorous House Ants
Actually there are over 20,000 species of ants. However, only around half have been identified. Their ancestry goes back over 110 million years ago to wasp-like creatures and, as we have seen in the above, ants today live in small communities to highly developed colonies and are found in almost every area around the globe. They are simply amazing to observe and to contemplate.
Note: My grandmother’s kitchen counter was sometimes invaded by ants. She used to peel a cucumber and leave a couple of slices on the counter and the ants always went away without using sprays or poisons.
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