Ant Colony


Ant Colony Essay, Research Paper

Ant ColonyIn everyone’s lifetime they have probably run across an ant hill in theirbackyard or a colony of carpenter ants in a woodpile. Also, they may havenoticed a long line of ants marching single file, like soldiers,empty-handed; while another line marches with a heavy load on itsshoulders, coming back to camp. In evryone’s lifetime, however, they haveprobably never thought about all that goes on in the ant colony. The antcolony is an incredible, interesting world that goes on beneath the surfaceof our earth. Ants are plodders on six stout legs that are most commonly found withoutwings. Although few persons are aware of it, nearly all important humanindustry and many human characteristics are common among the ant (Dupuy,1925). In many ant colonies, ants perform many different jobs. There areant masons, miners, carpenters, builders, farmers, engineers, soldiers,police, doctors, servants, slaves, nurses, undertakers, and sanitaryworkers. There are also ant hospitals, cemeteries, playgrounds, andnurseries (Verrill, 1937). In biblical times, Solomon stated that youshould “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways and be wise”,(Barker, 1960).During some periods of spring and summer, large numbers of winged malesand females, called queens, are produced. These emerge from their nestsand the males climb onto weeds or other places and take off in flight. Soon they are followed by the queens.Mating may take place high in the air or on the ground, depending on thespecies (Barker, 1960). During these activities, many of the males andqueens are captured by birds that gather for the feast. If the queen ismated and successful in survival of the flight, she will select a nestsite. She then severs her wings, for which she will no longer need andbegins excavating a hole in the earth. The hole is several inches deep andconnects with one to four domed-shaped chambers. She will then depositabout 50 eggs. When these hatch, the larvae are fed on materials secretedby her. As they grow, she cares for them by transporting the larvae intodifferent chambers to provide them with the proper conditions. These antshatch into what are referred to as workers and are smaller than normalbecause of their limited supply of food. Succeeding generations are fedand cared for by the worker ants and develop normally. After thesehatchings, the queen’s only function is to lay eggs. The queen can livefrom 10 to 15 years. The worker ants take on many different jobs. Many of their jobs are donein contrast with our human society. The first hatch of the worker ants arecalled nurses. These ants relieve the queen of taking care of the eggs andlarvae. When new eggs are laid, the workers take immediate charge of them, grasping them into compact bundles. When the eggs hatch into larvae,these nurses feed them partially digested food (Shuttlesworth, 1996). 3 After the larvae reach their pupal stage, the nurses are concerned withproviding them with the proper conditions of temperature. The nurses movethe pupae deeper into the earth during the day and back near the surfaceduring the evening. The Nurses also keep the pupae clean and protect themif attacked (Shuttlesworth, 1996). In an ant colony, the ant doctors and surgeons are important. There areant hospitals in the colony for sick or injured ants and if a member of the

colony has a disease, it is not unusual for the ant doctors to isolate thepatient. If an ant is so injured that it will be a cripple for life, theant surgeons do not prolong its pain and sufferings but immediately put theant to death. If only a leg is broken or injured, the limb is usuallyamputated and the patient carries on a usual. There are even beautyspecialists and masseurs in an ant colony. After a long, hard day at workthese ants will comb, smooth, massage, and clean the others and researchindicates the ants show every symptom of enjoying the process. Even thoughthe ants carry natural combs on their legs, they sometimes prefer to bebrushed and beautified by other ants (Verill, 1937). There are two main species of ants in America that plan special slaveraids. These ants are the Shing Slave Workers and the Sanguine SlaveMakers. They are red ants and raid the burrows of the black ant. Beforethe Sanguine Slave Makers go to battle, 4they get very excited. Researchers report an unusual circumstance duringthis ritual–no single ant is the identifiable leader. Yet, their plansare generally understood. When the ants are assembled,they set out for a definite place, usually a hundred yards or more away(Zim, 1956). When the reds set out on their attack, the black ant seems to know thatthey are coming. Sentinels are posted, barricades are thrown up, and gatesare barred. Black fighters are seen hurrying from below. Ants meet antswith only nature’s weapons. The fighting ants may lock jaws like bulldogsin a grip that cannot be broken. In the end, one side overcomes the other. The Reds are found to more likely be the winners. When they win, theywill go inside the burrows of the blacks and take all the larvae and pupaethat are on the way to anthood. Each warrior grabs a baby black andcarries it home (Hutchins, 1966). The infant blacks are given the greatest care in the colonies of theircapture. When grown, these ants are workers, but have all the privilegesof citizenship. These ants live in the colony under identically the sameconditions as the native workers. The black ants are loyal and show notendency to mutiny (Hutchins, 1966). There are thousands of species of ants, each with their own strange andunusual habits and human-like customs. It is strange to think that beneathour feet lives a tiny civilization much like our own. BIBLIOGRAPHYBarker, Will. Familiar Insects of America. New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1960. Dupuy, William. Our Insect Friends and Foes. Philadelphia: The John C. Winston Publishing Co., 1925Hutchins, Ross. Insects. Englewood, New Jersey: Prentiss Hall, Inc,1966Milne, Lorus and Margery. The Audubon Society Field Guide to NorthAmerican Insects and Spiders. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.,1980O’Toole, Christopher. Insects. New York: Facts on File Publications, 1987Shuttlesworth, Dorothy. “Ant.” Encarta Encyclopedia. 1996 CD-ROM ed. Verrill, A. Hyatt. Strange Insects and Their Stories. Boston: L.C. Page & Co., 1937Zim, Herbert. A Guide to Familiar Insects. New York: Golden Press Inc.,1956OUTLINEI. Introduction II.BodyA.Queens1.Mating2. ColonizationB.Worker Ants1.Nurses2.Doctors and Surgeons3.Beauty SpecialistsC.Slave Raids1.The Raid2.Slave Life III.Conclusion

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