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Ants: What The Hell Are These Things, Anyway? Ant-Rant, Ant-Facts and Ant-Lore

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posted on Aug, 17 2012 @ 08:40 PM

Ants: What The Hell Are These Things, Anyway?

By Xoanon

"I am thanking you for doing your part in helping to save these people. It will always be remembered, this you have done,

The time will come when another world will be destroyed, and when the wicked people know their last day on earth has come, they will sit by an anthill and cry for the ants to save them.

Now, having fulfilled your duty, you may go forth to this Second World and take your place as ants."

-Sotuknang, Creator of Life, speaking to the Ant People. Hopi creation narrative.

Caution: There will be cursing, I am afraid.

I wake at 4:30 in the morning to the cat yowling and meowing. I have known this cat for a long time so I am pretty sure I know what is going on; ants! He hates ants. I am not so sure how I feel about them, but more on that later. I get up and sure enough; they have gone for the cat food. In the dish and in the big bag that I had foolishly left unsealed. Tragedy.

Four years ago the ants had made my home an ant farm and seriously ruined about $35.00 worth of cat food in three weeks or so. That cat won't touch the stuff after the ants have been all over it, I suppose he smells them or something, or is simply disgusted by having seen them on the food. Even so, how to get the ants out of it? Anyhow, after that I had waged jihad against the ants and exterminated every nest that the property I lived on touched, and one or two over the fence by proxy.

But this year brought lots of school and work and when the summer arrived the ants began to get out of hand again. This thread is the result of thoughts and ruminations had during the days leading up to the new and present ant-jihad, which I am currently waging and winning. No names have been used in order to protect the very guilty ant murderer(s).

The ants that I have to deal with are of the swarming, trailing, Argentine variety. But I know that folks all over the U.S and abroad have to cope with the little assholes too, so I have included a couple of other species that are of universal concern. All of the ants that we will be discussing are part of a group of 5 or 6 species that are referred to as Tramp Ants. These are ants that got here and there by hook or by crook and always at the hands of human commerce and shipping. Yes, they hitched a ride from wherever they were from, and that is usually the key to their success.

Our Argentine Overlords

Linepithema humile

Thought to have been introduced to America via coffee shipping during the 1890's, the hegemony of the Argentine Ant now forms a 'global super-colony' that extends to Europe and Japan. This is best appreciated with a map...
You can see from the map that the distribution of the colonies is along the coastlines. When these ants arrived they had no natural predators. No competitors at all. Let's look at another map from the University of San Diego that details the infestation in the U.S...

Back in 2000 the scientists at UCSD determined that the success of the Argentine ant has come because for over a century since their proposed introduction from Brazil, there has been next to no genetic variation between these 'superhives'. That means that when they meet, they don't fight, in fact they pitch in, “Watcha' guys doin'?”, “Oh, we're raiding this guy's cat food”, “Want some help?”, “Oh, yes please, and afters you can all meets the Queen(s)”.

California is thought to be host to at least five (5!) giant colonies. The largest, known as the 'California Large' is considered to stretch for 900 kilometers along the coast and the European contingent is thought to stretch for 6000 kilometers along the coast of the Mediterranean. It is their world we just temporarily inhabit it.

These creatures are a regular fact of life in Southern California and if one lives in a badly infested area, and it is all more or less badly infested, and allows one's attention to waver for even just one season; hell will be paid and the encroachment will begin. They will come for the weirdest # too, everything one can expect and many things you could never imagine. They have an affinity for biological secretions of all sorts. Which causes me to have unhinged thoughts about DNA.

The Argentine ants are not burrowers or mound builders although they have been known to readily inhabit the deserted mounds or burrows of other types of ant. They prefer to inhabit loose piles of leaf fall and loam. So in urban environments they will even nest in personal belongings, indoors. Also, each nest can have multiple queens, up to 8 or 9, which is important for eradication strategies which we will discuss later.

Although they get along beautifully with one another, they hate other species of ants and will attack them mercilessly. As in all things with the Argentine ants, they use sheer numbers to overwhelm their targets. They are notably bad for whatever ecosystem they have been introduced in to as they have been known to take out beehives and bird's nests as well.

Crazy Like an Ant


..., commonly called the Crazy Ant, comes in 150 different flavors and is named for it's rapid and erratic movement when disturbed. Considered to be one of the most invasive species in the world, their hives are in most places that we are. People have said that they would rather have an infestation of fire ants simply because the fire ants can be located. The crazy ants have completely infested the southern United States all the way through Louisiana and Florida..

These are the little monsters that have been in the media in recent years and are notorious for mysteriously swarming over and fouling up electrical equipment.

They are also famous for 'overrunning' Biosphere 2 back in the 1980's. These little mothers, like the Argentine ant, do not burrow or form mounds, they nest and have multiple queens.

The real super power of this species and the one thing that has given them the genetic edge over others is that they can 'double-clone' themselves. The Queen produces daughters that are genetically identical to herself and then produces males that are genetically identical to her mate. I hope you can start to see now why I get a little nervous while contemplating ants.

edit on 17-8-2012 by Xoanon because: .

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posted on Aug, 17 2012 @ 08:57 PM

Fire Ants: You Will Know Their Wrath

Solenopsis invicta

Although not all fire ant species are considered to be invasive, Solenopsis invicta is, and it has inhabited the southeastern U.S., most notably Texas, since being introduced in the 1930's. Here it is called the red invasive fire ant and has even come to be known by an FDA acronym, RIFA. I will let WikiPedia do the talkin' here. This may not be news to some but others may want to hold on to their hats...

In the US the FDA estimates more than US$5 billion is spent annually on medical treatment, damage, and control in RIFA-infested areas. Furthermore, the ants cause approximately $750 million in damage annually to agricultural assets, including veterinarian bills and livestock loss, as well as crop loss. Over 40 million people live in RIFA-infested areas in the southeastern United States. Between 30 and 60% of the people living in fire ant-infested areas are stung each year.

Since September 2004 Taiwan has been seriously affected by the red fire ant. The US, Taiwan and Australia all have ongoing national programs to control or eradicate the species, but, other than Australia, none have been especially effective. In Australia, an intensive program costing A$175 million had by February 2007 eradicated 99% of fire ants from the sole infestation occurring in south-east Queensland.

And this just floored me. From the same WikiPedia article...

In just seventy years, according to a study published in 2009, lizards in parts of the United States had developed longer legs and new behaviors to escape the ants, which can kill the lizard in under a minute.

That's right. They hunt and take down prey. That's just peachy.

The previous two tramp-ants mentioned can and very rarely do bite, but for the most part their little jaws can't open wide enough for them to get at us. But if they could they would chomp on to us and spray the wound with formic acid, like most good and upstanding ants.

But not the great big RIFA (red invasive fire ant), they do have jaws wide enough to clamp on, but they only use them to get purchase on your hide so that they can swing in with the tale stinger and inject you with piperidine which burns like fire,...

Hence their name. Nasty.

Ant-Lore From Our Mysterious Past

Did you know that we have ants in our mysterious past? Well , we sure do, and I would like to touch on just two good examples of that with maybe an honorable mention.

Hopi Creation Mythos

According to the Hopi, and I do happen to put a fair amount of stock in to what the Hopi believe, we spent the interim time between the destruction of the second world and the creation of the third world, living with the ants or Ant People.

Yep, just like that, living underground, all tiny just like the ants. And while we were there we were supposed to be learning all of the skills of cooperativeness that we would need to thrive in the new, 3rd world. And that is the part that concerns me. Which I will get to at the end.

Achille's Myrmidons

The fiercest warriors of ancient Greek history and folklore were the Myrmidons, or ant-people of Phthia or ancient Thessaly. The story basically goes like this: Hera, the wife of Zeus had devastated the lands, livestock and people of Aeacus, the grandfather of Achilles with a horrible plague.

Aeacus is so grieved by his loss that Zeus promises to replenish his people until they are “as numerous as the ants on my oak” and makes good on his promise by turning every ant in the area in to men and women. Later, it is descendants of these very Myrmidons that Achilles leads in to battle during the Trojan war.

Folklore and myth often have within them the kernels of what make us tick as human beings and human societies. I would like to offer that we have an example of that here in both of these bits of Ant-Lore. It seems that it was important to our deep thinking brethren of old that we be cognizant of qualities that we share with the ants.

This theme is also exemplified in T. H White's A Once and Future King wherein Wart (the future Arthur) is for a time changed into an ant. White uses the story narrative as an opportunity to admonish about the dangers of what seems to be a human inclination towards totalitarianism. When Wart becomes an ant and he approaches the entrance to the colony and finds a sign reading, "EVERYTHING NOT FORBIDDEN IS COMPULSORY" continued...
edit on 17-8-2012 by Xoanon because: .

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posted on Aug, 17 2012 @ 09:07 PM

Weird Scenes Inside The Kitchen: My own anty antecdotes

So I wanted to share some of my own observations from the last 6 years of living on a plot of land that is heavily infested with Argentine ants. As I mentioned, upon realizing the first year that I was going to have this problem, I went to great lengths to destroy the nests in my immediate surroundings. This was strongly motivated by a desire not to be disturbed by landlord or exterminators or whatever. But it was deep in the small hours of night that I would hear the thready voice, “Tekeli-li, Tekeli-li”

Just kidding.

OK. Here is some of the stuff I have seen. The first is not really an anecdote, but I have anecdotal stories about it and it fascinates me utterly...

They farm! Other Insects! For their excrement usually. I have never seen anything like it. I worked professionally in the plant trade and I have seem some ant farming but nothing like these Argentine #ers.

Incredibly elaborate setups with mealy bug and scale coating 10 inch in diameter trees. That's really gnarly. Scale seems to work best for them as it repels water better than the mealy-bugs.

I don't know about you, but I find the fact that insects actively farm other insects to be very, very disturbing. And how is it that ants seem set aside above other insects to do so?

The kitchen is the front line of the war that these ants wage for my food. I have seen a lot of ant-death in there. It is much, I suppose like 2nd generation WWI warfare; what with the 409 and the other chemicals, also the fact that other than the chemicals the chief means by which these ants die is mechanical trauma. There is also lots of death by water.

But what blows my mind is the way in which the ants die at times and the stuff they do after a big massacre. They try to hide when they see me or become aware of me. They seem sometimes to crouch, cower and flail their antennae hopelessly in an effort to stop me when I am about to crush them. Don't think I enjoy this. After a bad invasion it is hard not to be resentful and a bit revenant, but as I will describe later, this whole mess concerns me.

They seem to actually have a sense of their individual lives at moments and it creeps me out. Watching them carry away their comrades body parts after a raid goes particularly bad is not pretty to watch either. I know that entomologists agree that they are taking them back for sustenance, but the grave way in which the other ants go about this is unnerving. I keep expecting the ant version of the Geneva Convention to subpoena me when I kill these seeming medic-ants as well.

posted on Aug, 17 2012 @ 09:10 PM
So, these guys behave like a chain outlet. Total homogeneity, identical queens popping the larva out like popcorn machines. In group cooperation, and an in-group that encompasses an entire species. I have no idea how to feel about that, the creeping sensation up my spine notwithstanding.

But there's another side to ants one can consider with unambiguous wonder: their exceptional civil engineering skillz.

Observe this monolith of an anthill:

It's even more impressive on the inside. It's a fully functional city; with nurseries, larders, and even graveyards.

Marvel at that. And they can be tiny farmers, too. These are leaf cutter ants; who employ gathering, processing and cultivation techniques to maintain their subterranean fungus farms.

Not to jump the gun, but perhaps the Hopi passage quoted above indicates that there is a subtle lesson to be gleaned from the ants on the perils to the lifeweb posed by invasive homogeneity, as well as the benefits of mutualism and cooperation.

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posted on Aug, 17 2012 @ 09:11 PM

What Really Concerns Me about The Little #ers

And so after all of the above that is why I have to ask: what the hell are they, anyway? Some higher form of insect? Or something else? There are more of them then there are of us. They must be aware of this if their tactic for just about everything is to overwhelm. I wish it could be like a science fiction novel and that we could somehow tune in to the Argentine Ant Hive-Overmind, or whatever, and somehow divine or ask their/its purpose.

Because, you see, I am concerned that we have missed the point concerning ants. That we were supposed to learn some lesson that we are not learning. That our pointless ( so pointless, against their numbers and geography) war with the ants is symbolic for our repeated inability to learn core stuff that would be essential for our survival.

In the Hopi creation story, the ants actually starve themselves to feed us as food begins to run out. It is said that that is the reason that they have such a narrow waist to this day. I can't help but think of that sort of thing as I decimate the ants as they try to get at food that I have thrown away. So I am concerned that we continue to mindlessly trample on some lesson we are supposed to be getting, part of which may very well have to do with wasting food.

I am also concerned that I will cease to give a #. It was so bad this year that I almost got there. But what would that have been like? I actually saw these #ers begin to colonize My home! Very strategically, with forward forces taking up temporary holding positions, 'swell' tactics used to seemingly overwhelm my weak resistance overnight. And what would I tell people? “Oh, those are just the ants, no point in trying to stop them, have a seat.”

So I am killing them again. It is nearly over. Their numbers have dwindled greatly from the great streams from two days ago. I watch the final stragglers nibbling on the poison I have left out for them and I can't help but wonder about all of this. Why must it go on? The numbers in which they are willing to die for kitty-food-gribbles just chills me to the bone; like they are throwing some lesson right in our faces.

Because it is inevitable. I would like to go over eradication strategies later, I have learned much and have a few tricks to offer. I see no alternative.

I would also love to hear all of your stories and antecdotes as well. Thanks, ATS.

posted on Aug, 17 2012 @ 09:13 PM
I love Ants

Thanks for posting, they deserve some recognition!

The only time I don't like them, is in the summer and they invade the house and garden path!

I remember passing the time as a kid watching them, watching them work and interact, I remember watching some ants that, by accident, had got trod on, so half their body was stuck to the ground, and they others would all come and pull!

Fascinating creatures!

I might go play with ants next time they come out! Aha.
edit on 17-8-2012 by Sinny because: (no reason given)

edit on 17-8-2012 by Sinny because: (no reason given)

posted on Aug, 17 2012 @ 09:18 PM
reply to post by Xoanon

When I was twelve, my mother and I took a jeep out some very bad roads to a remote shack she'd rented on the west coast of Costa Rica. Tin shack and cots, no power. And before cell phones. Anyway, that night she gets swarmed. No where near as many as in the video, but enough. Without waking me, she sprints out of the shack and washes em' off in the ocean, but then she shortly begins to get very ill.

Like, going numb in the extremities ill.

She suspects she has been fatally poisoned, and does not know what to do. She can't drive, and she has no way to alert anyone. She decides to let me sleep and see how things shake out. She was okay w/i a few hours, but didn't tell me about it for years. She said it was the worst night of her life.

Also? When I was a kid in West Texas, I may as well have been spritzed in sugar water, the damnable little fiends had such a taste for me.
edit on 17-8-2012 by Eidolon23 because: .

posted on Aug, 17 2012 @ 09:34 PM
reply to post by Sinny

I remember passing the time as a kid watching them, watching them work and interact,

I also spent a considerable amount of time messing with ants and other creatures in my environs. All that stuff seems so much bigger when you are a kid, too, so I remember the big red fire ants seeming to be immense and their mounds seemed to make you itch just looking them.

Thanks for coming by and posting, I am glad that you found stuff that you liked.
edit on 17-8-2012 by Xoanon because:

posted on Aug, 17 2012 @ 09:34 PM
Awesome ant-rant!

These creatures have always amazed me. S+F

posted on Aug, 17 2012 @ 09:35 PM
Leaf cutter ants enjoy a cordial relationship with fungus, but other ant species are not so fortunate. Enter the fungal freakout who holds the undisputed title for weirdest life cycle on the planet: Ophiocordyceps, aka the Zombie Ant Fungus.

That, my friends, is an ant whose brain has been hijacked by the fungus. in the yeasting stage, the spores eat the soft tissues and excrete a mind-altering compound that totally effs the ant up in the membrane. It is then driven to a nice, moist location whereupon the fungus sprouts like Athena from the ant's head and spews forth its spawn to spread to other ants and repeat the whole bizarre act all over again.

More (creepy-ass) pictures here.

edit on 17-8-2012 by Eidolon23 because: .

posted on Aug, 17 2012 @ 09:50 PM
reply to post by Xoanon

Star and flag for you, Xoanon, a great post on something most never think about. Like you, I too set a lot of stock in what the Hopi said and believed.
I have read the stories of the Ant People, and how they came up from the ground and took the Natives down to their lair, until the "Event" whatever it was, was over. There has to be something there, people just don't make up stories like that.

posted on Aug, 17 2012 @ 09:51 PM
reply to post by Eidolon23

I certainly do marvel at that sort of thing, no matter how many times I see it. I do agree with you about the many, many lessons that we can learn from these tiny creatures especially their "civil engineering" skillz. I am glad that you brought that up because it jogged my memory to bring up something that I find interesting. The Hopi have dwellings called Kiva and of course there are their Pueblos. In the creation myth the homes of the ants are called their Kiva, in most of the re-tellings that I have read.

Anyhow, check out the Mishongnovi Pueblo of the Hopi, in Arizona...

It often looks to me, at least from a distance, like a highly organized ant colony.

Also, thank you for sharing that harrowing tale about your mom. I imagine that the less mass a person has, that the more susceptible they might be to something like that ant attack. I can't help but think what the little bastards were trying to pull off.

edit on 17-8-2012 by Xoanon because:

posted on Aug, 17 2012 @ 10:55 PM
The Queen isn't much of one, really. Mostly she gives chemical prompts related to breeding. Her subjects regulate themselves. They are an example of a self-organized system. No hierarchy. Social scientists and writers alike have transposed a communist model onto the way ants behave. Some share your unease over the success of the miniature Red Menace.

Phase IV, released in 1974, convincingly renders your worst case scenario, X.

Here is the opening clip. I can't recommend it highly enough.

posted on Aug, 17 2012 @ 11:00 PM
reply to post by autowrench

There has to be something there, people just don't make up stories like that.

Agreed. The Hopi treat the subject as a matter of fact and they are so sincere and for so long have lived by what they believe that I can't help but take their word for it. The ant story has stuck with me since when I can't remember. I am sure there is important stuff there.

Thanks for being here.


posted on Aug, 17 2012 @ 11:20 PM
ha hah what a hilarious OP, well done , "I for one welcome our Ant overlords".

posted on Aug, 17 2012 @ 11:29 PM
F-ANT-astic thread. I ant kidding. Listening to your personal trials reminds me of this:

It could be worse, you could be overrun by Adam Ants!!

Much I didn't know here, but now I know those dang fire ants do me the double-dirty! Most original--and awesomely presented--thread in recent memory.

posted on Aug, 17 2012 @ 11:46 PM
reply to post by Xoanon

You should check out the book City by Clifford D. Simak. You will definitely get a kick out of it.

I remember that Phase IV flick from when I was a kid, pretty creepy.

Nice op, good luck in the rest of the war.

posted on Aug, 17 2012 @ 11:55 PM
reply to post by The GUT

You are too kind, GUT, thank you for your kind words. Yeah, I have to say that being invaded by these creatures really works on a person. To battle them effectively requires stuff that is usually just not at hand and when life gets busy sometimes, keeping them at bay is the best that one can do until enough time is made for a well planned out trip to the right store or market.

For instance. I had hoped to report that after 3 days the war was over. I had scanned the house 5 or so hours ago and all that seemed to be left were a small group that had been licking on the poison and were huddled about the base of a French coffee press, too weary to make the climb out. But after placing a plate in the sink with sriracha (hot sauce, very hot sauce) on it and walking away to pay attention to this thread and other things, the poor little guys mustered what is probably their last good batch of myrmidons to head out and bring back the taste of Thailand.

Their discernment is maddening to me at times. Anyhow, they are on to the poison again.

It could be worse, you could be overrun by Adam Ants!!

You beat me to it.

Thanks again for finding something in the thread that you like.

edit on 17-8-2012 by Xoanon because:

posted on Aug, 18 2012 @ 12:18 AM
reply to post by TheLoony

good luck in the rest of the war.

Thanks so much, I am afraid that I am going to need it. As I mentioned above, they are back, not in nearly the numbers they were once able to muster, but they have returned for the hot sauce.

I have done away with anything food-like except my modified Grants stakes, so for what it is worth, I am going at it with them right now. It's on. Again.

Thanks for coming by.


posted on Aug, 18 2012 @ 12:46 AM
S+F I have always been fascinated by ants as well as annoyed by them.No matter my personal feelings,there is no getting around the fact that they are awesome little creatures.
Eidolan23 mentioned the zombie ants in his/her post.Here is a link to a short vid about the fungus known in it's shortened name as "cordyceps".Pretty freaky!

Zombie Ant YouTube Video
edit on (8/18/1212 by amrith777 because: (no reason given)

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