Robert (gurdonark) wrote,

Argentine ants and other longings

Argentine ants fascinate me. They inhabit our eco-space today as familiars. The tiny ants march through many a kitchen. But Argentine ants number among the exotics. They arrived in New Orleans in the 1890s, after making the perilous passage by coffee boat from Brazil. I will skip the metaphor about how they displaced native populations, declared themselves the owners of all the land they surveyed, and decimated entire sections of the ecology here.

I find ant farms fascinating. The Uncle Milton Company, maker of fine plastic ant farm civilizations, provides harvester ants from the Antelope Valley in California to populate its ant farms. Harvester ants work better in ant farms than do Argentines. These ants set up burial chambers, farm grass seeds, and enjoy digging in the sandy soil. Argentines slip out the air holes, because they love their sandy digging soil, but not like they love their freedom.
Fire ants, too, slip out the holes in the ant farms. Fire ants tend to dislike those who aren't fire ants, as well, which reminds one that sometimes reality does indeed bite.

Today I'm ranging across a world of stray, largely irrelevant thoughts. I wonder how a little Republican state matters so much to the Democratic nomination process. I wonder if the Lubbock snow situation will abate before my trip there on Thursday. I think about the discovery of water on Mars, and hope someday that we find life there.

But the Argentine ants ignore the irrelevant stuff. They build nests, perform specialized tasks, and work hard. On the other hand, their social structure works on a basis I would find quite objectionable in my own life.

Aesop wrote of the grasshopper who fiddled while the ant stored up food for the winter. But myrmecophiles have their cake and eat it, too. Myrmecophiles are non-ants who enter into reciprocal arrangements with ants in which they obtain food from the ants by deceit or by providing a desired service to the ants. The Argentine ants interact with aphids and other honeydew producing critters.

This morning I found great microscope pictures of ants at That site also has great photos of protozoa, algae and other things worth of great photos. I might have been a scientist, I think sometimes, but for the lack of any talent for science or math.
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