Fun Facts about Ants: Interesting Social Insects
Ants are fascinating little creatures. Some species of ants raise herds of aphids. These ant “shepherds” will move their charges to the best “plant grazing areas” while defending them from ladybugs and other predators. The ants sometimes stroke their charges with their antennae, “milking” the aphids for the honeydew they excrete.
In contrast, the Leaf-Cutter Ants grow and harvest fungi for food. These ant “gardeners” cut and carry green leaf pieces back to the colony, where they are chewed up to form a substrate for the fungus to grow on.
Attacked by a Fierce and Fearless Opponent
I once observed leaf-cutter ants in person while on a mission trip to Nicaragua. While watching the worker ants carry pieces of green leaves single-file down a tree trunk, I suddenly felt a sharp jabbing pain in my foot. A soldier ant had climbed up on my sandal and attacked my big toe.
I don’t remember if that particular ant survived—but you have to give her points for courage. After all, my body is 1000 times larger than hers.
Did I learn to sex individual ants while studying biology in college?
Nope—I just have a little extra knowledge, absorbed while watching nature programs on TV.
In an ant colony, the queen only produces winged males and new, fertile, winged queens when it’s mating time. All the other worker and soldier eggs she lays develop into sterile females.
Armed with a Magnifying Glass
Many parents give their child a magnifying glass to observe leaf veins, human fingerprints and tiny insects up close.
Unfortunately, sooner or later, kids always discover how to focus the sun’s rays into a hot pinpoint of light. Some hurt themselves, by focusing the magnifying glass’ rays on their own arm. But many kids focus the beam on some poor insect instead.
Ants make good targets. They can’t fly away or scurry quickly under cover like a roach. Ants sometimes build their anthills out in the open, too. Lastly, individual ants are easily spotted as they walk across pavement. They’re the perfect involuntary “test subjects,” traveling alone, exposed and vulnerable.
And with the exception of fire ants, this type of insect usually can’t hurt its tormentors.
“A Cruel Deity”
At this point, this sweet human child becomes a miniature “god,” mercilessly dispensing life or death—and often they choose destruction. The targeted ant may try to flee from the hot, focused beam of light, but it’s up against ‘a cosmic being of unimaginable power’—at least to an ant. This “godlike” individual—the human child—proceeds to manipulate the unfortunate ant’s entire environment. If the victim seeks shelter under a leaf, that leaf is suddenly lifted away into the sky. The ant’s attempt to reach the safety of the colony’s underground tunnels is thwarted too. Gigantic obstacles unexpectedly appear in its path, blocking its way.
Thus on a child’s whim, a small insect overheats and dies.
Cruel indifference would seem like mercy.
The “gods” created by humans tend to be cruel, selfish and indifferent to the suffering of lesser creatures.
In contrast, we worship the One who calls Himself the Good Shepherd and sends us the Comforter.
Jesus’ Revelation of His Heavenly Father’s True Nature
When Jesus became a baby, our Creator voluntarily gave Himself the limitations of a human body. The incarnation was so successful that everyone meeting Jesus fully accepted Him as a mortal man. They didn’t have any fear of Him at all; no inkling they were talking to the One they worshiped. Our Savior successfully entered our world in human form to heal, deliver, teach, save and redeem.
In fairy tales, princes sometimes disguise themselves temporarily as beggars.
Jesus didn’t come in that way; instead, He came into our world as a servant.
Analogy: Becoming an Ant
Other bible teachers have used this analogy before. But suppose a person voluntarily changed and became reborn as an ant, in order to explain to the ants what a good human was like? Any man transformed into an ant could only communicate through touch, scent and a few limited sounds. An ant’s concept of a human—if they could conceive of one at all—would be very limited. Just the smallest inkling. Just a tiny sliver of the truth.
What one truth would that transformed human want to tell the other ants in his ant colony?
God’s Nature Revealed
Jesus wanted people to know His Father, but the concept of the Almighty is so far beyond us, that our Savior had to keep His message very simple. Like the ants, we too understand “just the smallest inkling” about who God really is. I believe that’s why Jesus told so many parables—people can easily understand stories about life here on earth.
In the end, the key truth Jesus revealed about the Ancient of Days is how God feels about every one of us.
We are each:
- Valuable and worth seeking. (The parables about the lost sheep and the lost coin.)
- Loved, protected and divinely cared for. (The Good Shepherd parable and the birds of the air.)
- Welcomed back when we return, even if we’ve sinned. (The story of the prodigal son.)
- Given gifts to use. (The mustard seed of faith, the ten talents.)
- Called to help others. (The Good Samaritan.)
God loves us.
I believe He loves His creation too.
Now how do you say that in ant pheromones?
All images came from Pixabay.com.
For a short article about ants that cut leaves or herd aphids, please click here.
The BBC has a documentary on YouTube called “Planet Ant-Life inside the Colony” where scientists transported a whole colony of tropical Leaf-Cutter Ants into an artificially built environment in Scotland in order to study their behavior. Click here.