By Ryan Noel Fraser, Ph.D.
This summer, it seems the ants have been especially bad. My wife and I have been battling to keep them out of our kitchen. A colony of ants has even attempted to take up permanent residence in our mailbox. Unbelievable!
We’ve sprayed them, stomped them, squished them, and more recently set traps for them. Those Terro liquid ant baits are about the only thing we’ve found that seem to get the job done. While we’ve not managed to eliminate the ants all together, we’ve at least been able to get them more under control.
Now, mind you, I’ve got no major beef with ants. I’m actually quite thankful God created them, because I know they serve a valuable function in our ecosystem. In essence, they are a highly efficient clean up squad that decontaminates our garbage by carrying off unwanted debris and breaking down putrid food, carcasses, etc. Our world would be far dirtier without them. Ants also suppress pest populations and aerate the soil.
And, I’ve got to hand it to them; ants are tenacious, persistent insects indeed. They seemingly won’t give up easily or take “No” for an answer. Ants are committed to getting the job done. They're all in. Here are a few fascinating facts about ants you may not know:
· There are more than 12,500 classified ant species around the world (of an estimated total of 22,000 species).
· Ants have colonized virtually every landmass on Earth, except Antarctica and a few remote or inhospitable islands.
· Ants have compound eyes made from numerous tiny lenses. Their eyes are good for acute movement detection, but not high-definition.
· Two antennae ("feelers") attached to the head are used to detect chemicals, air currents, and vibrations; they also transmit and receive signals through touch.
· Ants can carry (or drag) an object weighing up to 25 times their body weight. However, the neck joint of a common American field ant can withstand pressures of up to 5,000 times its body weight.
· Ant colonies range in size from a few dozen individuals to highly complex colonies occupying large territories and consisting of millions of individuals.
· As social insects, ants typically live in highly structured nest communities that may be located underground, in ground-level mounds, or in trees. Some species, however, such as army ants, don’t have permanent homes and are nomadic in that they migrate in search of food sources.
· Ant colonies have a clear division of labor, communication between members, and the ability to solve complex problems.
· They are comprised of a caste system headed by the queen (or multiple queens) whose function is to lay thousands of eggs to ensure the colony’s survival.
· Workers (sterile wingless females) never reproduce but supply food, nourish and care for the queen’s larvae, build and maintain the nest, defend the colony from intruders, and perform countless other duties.
· Winged males (called “drones”) have the singular role of mating with the queen(s) during swarming season.
· Only the queen and breeding females (gamergates) have the ability to mate. Contrary to popular belief, some ant colonies have multiple queens, while others may exist without queens.
· Once they fly (and mate), drones don’t live very long. Also, after taking their nuptial flight and mating, new queens break off their own wings leaving nubs, never to fly again.
· Male ants are transitory and may only live for a few weeks. Female worker ants may live from 1 to 3 years, but queen ants can survive as long as 15-30 years.
· Ants typically eat nectar, seeds, fungus, or insects. However, some species have diets that are more unusual. Army ants may prey on reptiles, birds, or even small mammals.
· Ants attack and defend themselves by biting and, in many species, by stinging, often injecting or spraying chemicals.
· Ants communicate by using chemicals that can alert others to danger or lead them to a food source. They leave an invisible chemical scent trail, which contains pheromones for others to follow once they locate the food source. A crushed ant emits an alarm pheromone that sends nearby ants into an attack frenzy and attracts more ants from farther away.
· Ants may be the only group apart from mammals where interactive teaching (vicarious learning) has been observed.
We can learn a lot from ants. They are tiny but potent creatures. Proverbs 6:6-8 (ESV) says, “Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest.” What a great work ethic! Proverbs 30:24-25 (ESV) recognizes that “Four things on earth are small, but they are exceedingly wise: the ants are a people not strong, yet they provide their food in the summer.”
I appreciate the amazing example of the ant. Big things come in small packages!
Dr. Ryan Fraser is an assistant professor of counseling at Freed-Hardeman University, pastoral therapist, and the preacher of the Bethel Springs church of Christ. His website is www.ryanfraser.org.
|Dr. Ryan Fraser|
Raised on the mission field in South Africa, Dr. Ryan Fraser has been happily married to his college sweetheart, Missy (Housel), for 26 years. Together they have been blessed with two wonderful children and live in West Tennessee.
Ryan holds a B.A. in Bible and Master’s in Ministry from Freed-Hardeman University, a M.Div. from Abilene Christian University, and a Ph.D. in Pastoral Theology and Pastoral Counseling from Brite Divinity School (Texas Christian University). He teaches courses in the graduate counseling program at Freed-Hardeman University (since 2006), has a private counseling practice, and serves as the pulpit minister and an elder for the Bethel Springs church of Christ.
Ryan likes 80’s music, is an avid hiker, thrives on Indian curry and Thai Food, and loves hanging out with his wife and kids.
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