The Family (Or most of them)

The Family (Or most of them)
The Family

June 11, 2007


I've always loved and admired ants.

AND this week, at work, I had a chance to marvel at them again, and as a result be able to obliterate Paris Hilton's whining, Prince Harry's gallavanting, Bush's Bullshit from my mind, if only for 5 glorious minutes.

A group of tiny little black ants, dwarfed as they were by their prey -- a green caterpillar 10 times the size of each of them individually -- had miraculously congregated to bite it repeatedly.

Despite its desperate writhing for life, the ants collectively were able to drag it slowly back to their colony.

I wondered as a kid, and I wondered again this week, how these ants communicated to each other so that they all came together to subdue that one caterpillar. "Hey, Harry, come on over here, I've got a big one!"

It's amazing. And it will always be amazing.

WHEN I was a kid, I used to collect insects every summer day. I'd go down the back lane on Kitson Street with my jar in hand, filled with twigs and a bit of soil, and lift every rotting 2 x 4 or log or rock I could find.

Most often, I was looking for beetles or centipedes or other solitary creatures.

Those that lived a solo existence were so easy to find and catch, even though they could bite harder and were faster and more elusive than any single ant. They were solitary. And that was their undoing.

Ants? They always intrigued me. Their colonies were so easy to find, because of their huge numbers and apparently dumb refusal to hide.
They weren't fast, they didn't bite very hard, they just did their business -- in great numbers. Which was their key to life.

THEY fascinated me.
My hope always was to capture enough of them so they might form their own community in my jar, dig their tunnels inside it and allow me to watch them carry their eggs, feed their young, etc.

Of course, it never worked. I'd wait for them to colonize. I'd provide them food. But they'd either die or I'd let them go free. It wouldn't work, no matter what I tried. They wouldn't bow to my control.

I was always baffled by that, but eventually I came to understand their simple intelligence and their nature.

IT was just my own stupid, self-centred human ignorance that caused me to think I could tame them by feeding them and trying to provide for them and nurturing them.

They, unlike us, don't have to be individuals. They don't get into personality conflicts. They don't go off to the corner and sulk when they don't get what they want. They don't get mad. They also don't get happy, I assume.
They don't complain when they don't get sex because for the most part, they NEVER have sex and couldn't have sex if they tried. They don't get married, so they don't get divorced. They never have child support payments.

They never have to worry about lawyers' bills, wills and testaments, family disputes over who gets what, beating out that fellow employee for the promotion or keeping up with the Joneses and getting themselves over-extended in debt.

Ants don't worry about death and dying, they just die. They don't have religion so they don't have to argue about the Far Right and the Far Left and whether they're going to be saved by the Rapture.

They have no awareness of whether they evolved or were magically created in an instant.

They don't need guns. They don't rape and pillage. When aggression surfaces, they fight it and eliminate it, or they die. They don't invade other places far beyond their territory just to claim that territory.

THEY don't have a crime problem and prison over-crowding in the ant world because either you toe the line or you die. You do your job or you perish or are destroyed.
They don't have pompous politicians full of B.S. and agendas, and there is no democracy.
There's no need for ANY political philosophy because there are no dictators, there are no sleazy money-grubbing politicians, there is no United Nations of Antdom, there is only life and survival of the group over the individual.

DOES all this mean I'd rather be an ant? No.

But it does mean that I think us "highly superior" human beens could learn a lot from ants and so many other creatures about working together instead of focusing on the innane things we sometimes consider all too important.
It's true, as far as we know, that ants have no emotions. We do.
I think that naturally, we're hard-wired to have the right feelings and do the right things at the right times, if we're just left to function with those basics. There's a natural beauty about us that is just right.
The poison that causes most of the troubles we have, I believe, are greed and our own absolute feelings that what WE feel has to be religion, in politics and most of all, in expectations and survival.
Things have become too complicated for our minds to absorb and handle. It goes past us at light speed on the internet and on TV and we can't keep up, so we go along with it in fear of missing out on something.
The media and our consumer-oriented, buy-everything-to-feel-good, get-it-right-now culture is driving us crazy with expectation and the pressure to be what the TV and advertising tells us we should be.
We need to slow down. We need to be more selective in what we listen to and observe and what we pay attention to.
We need to care less about Paris Hilton and other stupid diversions from real life and we need to care more about things that matter to us as a much bigger collection of people who aren't like her and never will be.
The key to an ant's life is simplicity and doing what's supposed to be done. Of course we're so much more complex than ants.
But if we had a little more or their simple purpose and a little less of the cultural rhetoric we can't escape, we'd be better off. Get your antennae out. Sense what's really going on around you and if it really feels right.
If it does, more power to you. Go crazy. If it doesn't, then head over here. I've got a caterpillar I need help carrying.


  1. Have always admired how hard they work but never quite realized they deserved so much credit! You make them look almost cute.

  2. Isn't there a biblical injunction to the sluggard to "...look to the ant and consider her ways and be wise..."?
    The local green ants are re-grouping.Hows about I send you some?

  3. I don't want to be an ant either but agree there's so much we humans can learn from nature.

    But maybe that's too much to expect when we can't even learn from the past, much less learn significant lessons from other species.

  4. Bibi:

    Well, I think they deserve a lot of credit! And that there are some things about them worth emulating...


    Ha! If there is such a biblical reference, it sure makes some sense to me.

    Sure, send me some of your ants. Better send 'em via courier. They're survivors, but that has limits...


    You are RIGHT girl. It's but a millisecond in our evolution, but we sure don't seem to learn, do we?

  5. You're right, we should do things differently. Sadly, we don't.

  6. Anna:

    Human nature, I guess...

  7. I have no doubt that you are anticipating one of my standard Cliff Clavinesque answers so let us begin...

    Yeah well it's a little known fact that Ants evolved from Wasps about 100 million years ago back in the Cretaceous Period.

    Yeah most of the Colony is made up of wingless female workers who serve the Queen and do all of the foraging and protecting.

    Males are produced to mate with the Queen and then they die because apparently they aren't much good for anything else.

    This may account for your admiration of the Ant society and the clarity with which the sexes are delegated towards the division of labour and so forth.

    So yeah basically you're right, if you are a 'boy' Ant your life would be a hell of a lot simpler.

  8. Homo Insecticide:

    Cliff Clavinesque is right...

    I guess if you're a male ant your life would be a whole lot simpler, but also a whole lot shorter...

    Hmmm...let me ponder that one...

  9. I get your point and yes, I will help you with the caterpillar :-) Personally an ant colony often makes me think of communism : an individual isn't worth very much, everything is sacrificed for a "common" benifit or prestige or the survival of the species (nation). What impresses me very much (and stresses the fact that the life on one ant has no value, what you mention yourself too) : if there is a river to cross, they make a bridge of ants, the first hundreds/thousands die / if there is a fire surrounding the nest, a dam through the fire is made by ants all storming into the fire and burning untill there is a layer of dead ants, where the others can walk over. It leaves me with big question marks and I don't know very well what opinion to form.

  10. very cool idea dude- i wish i could pop over and help you carry your caterpillar!
    ants are incredible- and life would indeed be easier were we able to put away our emotions sometimes...

  11. Ants are amazing creatures and I agree that we need to listen less to the media and more to our inner voices.

    Good post, WW and I really love your new header.

  12. Hildie:

    Very thought-provoking comments by you and thank you for them.

    I agree, it is somewhat like Communism.

    The only difference is that the Politburo weenies at the top of real Communist parties are often in it for themselves, I'd suggest.

    (How is THAT part different from Democracy or most other political theologies? Ha!!)

    In an ant colony, there is no power struggle, only roles for each to fulfil for the good of the whole. And they only take what they need, nothing more.

    I also agree that individuals aren't worth very much and they're sacrificed for the whole.

    Isn't that a lot like the U.S. sending all those troops to Iraq to be sacrificed? But for what and why? It's a different thing. Motive. With ants, the only motive is survival.

    Your very heady knowledge of the lengths ants go to survive is right on and proves the point more.

    Thanks, Hildie!


    Thanks for helpin' with the caterpillar. I think our emotions are beautiful things. They set us apart from everything else.

    But we let them run amok, I figure, thanks largely to the media and the corporate world and money money money...


    Inner voices, yes, perfect...they just get buried underneath all the other crapola we're subjected to.

    That new header's familiar, huh? I just wish I could format it to goes way off the screen to the right...


  13. I had left comments on the previous post. What did you do with those?

    Spooked those out?

    Thanks for this lesson in Biology. That never interested me before!

  14. If you resize the photo with your photo editing software and then repost to your header, it should fit.

    I just added one to my blog and it looks OK on the laptop resized to 660 x 204 pixels.

    Please tell me if mine looks different on a real computer, though. ;-)

  15. Gautami:

    Sorry, I'm confused. Your comment is there and I responded to it, quite at length...


    Thanks, you! It worked. And yours look great ;-)

  16. Speaking of comments, the last time that you left one on mine was in early April goober boy!

    As banal and tedious as your observations may be I still appreciate your half hearted effort. Get off of your sorry excuse for a butt!

  17. Homo Antithesis to ants:

    Check your own blog, Goober Boy. You don't even answer my emails, apparently let alone my comments.

    It has not been since April.

    However, I've been commenting on very few other blogs either, a fact I have admitted to (*wipes off tomatoes and eggs thrown in face by other bloggers*)

    I agree my effort has been half-hearted...and I haven't tried to hide that fact.


If you choose to use anonymous to comment, it is only fair that I reserve the right to obliterate your comment from my blog.