Written by David Vogel Tuesday, 04 October 2011 16:35
This week I feel compelled to write about ants. No, not aunts; the kind that pinch your cheeks or, in my case, create Facebook profiles for their cats who have a lot of snarky—if not insightful—things to say about life. (I’m not kidding. Search “Clyde Whiskers” on Facebook.)
I’m talking about the ants that regularly invite themselves to picnics and share food with lazy grasshoppers.
Recently, wife Hanna and I have had a lot of interaction with the foraging insects, and I have to say that it’s really changed my perspective of them.
The exposure I’ve had to ants in my life consists mostly of watching Pixar’s “A Bug’s Life” several hundred times while growing up, and more recently being an avid reader of National Geographic.
In both instances, ants are portrayed to be intellectual, intelligent, instinctive and intuitive creatures.
For example, this year’s May issue of National Geographic features an article titled “Sisterhood of the Weaver Ants.” The tagline reads: “With a remarkable array of communication skills, weaver ants may have perfected social networking.”
Perhaps ants should be the ones getting their own Facebook profiles.
The article goes on to include several uncomfortably close photos of the ants forming chain links to pull leaves together, fighting off huge beetles and spiders and squeezing the larvae between their pinchers to produce silk for colony construction.
The author speaks very highly of the ants, saying, “If aliens ever do land on Earth, don’t get all huffy if their greeting turns out to be: ‘Take me to your ant.’”
That’s pretty high praise for a creature whose main form of communication is wriggling its nether regions and—to quote the article—“laying odors.”
In reality, I’ve actually had little personal interaction with ants, save years of experimenting to find the effect of inserting a firecracker into an anthill entrance
The subject seems to require continued research.
Additionally, when I was younger my parents bought me an ant farm, which seems like a quality educational tool that brings nature to an indoor living environment. However, I somehow managed to kill them overnight; a talent I wish I still had.
I say this because recently I’ve seen too many living ants inside my indoor living environment.
Until recently, Hanna and I haven’t had problems with ants in our apartment. There was one instance several weeks ago in which a small puddle of mouthwash on the bathroom counter attracted a small crowd of ants, but we wiped it up and that seemed to solve the problem.
That is, until two weekends ago.
Coming home from a chilly football game, I was looking forward to a cup of hot chocolate. Instead of marshmallows, Hanna and I were greeted by a welcoming committee of swarming commas on our kitchen countertop.
This is where the notion of ant intelligence begins to fall apart. Searching through all of our cabinets, we found that the target seemed to be the utensils drawer.
That’s right: the sterile drawer with the measuring cups and the spatulas and the apple slicer and the whisk. Not—I repeat NOT—the pan of fresh chocolate chip cookies setting in plain sight less than a foot away.
We didn’t have any bug spray, but we found that an aerosol disinfectant worked just as well.
Not to mention our counter and drawers are now rid of 99.9 percent of bacteria.
The ants continued to trickle in for the next couple of days, but I think they eventually got the message that entering our utensils drawer was signing their own death certificates.
At least this seems to point to some credibility in the idea of ants possessing unusual intelligence. I won’t, however, fully believe it until ants have their own Facebook profiles. Maybe that’s what they mean by “computer bugs.”
If that’s the case, I’ve got a can of aerosol disinfectant that will take care of the resulting computer virus.