An Ant's Ways
Welcome, fellow stones! I’m so glad you're here. Today, we return to the world of ants, a four-part series on Proverbs 6:6-8. Our starting adventure, “Go to the Ant,” can be found here. We continue deeper into our journey today.
I thought the best way to consider an ant’s ways would be to become one. So, as you continue, immerse yourself in the role. Imagine how your life as an ant would compare to your current one. Here are some questions to ponder as you read:
- How are your responsibilities the same? How are they different?
- What about your relationships with others?
- How does the life cycle differ?
- What would you miss most about being human?
- What advantage(s) might there be to being an ant?
An Ant’s Ways
Nestled safely inside the soft, white, oval confine you come to awareness. Chomping noises surround you. Curious, you force yourself out of the egg. Lucky for you, you were not extra nourishment for your worker relatives mulling around nearby.
Soon, you are moved into a room with other larvae, white and wormlike just like you. In this new dirt-walled room, you chomp on and breakdown insects brought to you by nurse ants. It is satisfying knowing even this effort sustains the adults of the colony who only eat a liquid diet. Sometimes you even devour invading larvae which aids in securing the continual rule of your queen.
Within days, your body starts changing, elongating. It takes time and rest. From busy days of eating to long days of relaxation, all your energy is now shifted to your metamorphosis. Instead of shifting muscles to move, you now must learn to operate your new limbs. Objects slowly come into focus around you. Other ants, dirt, the debris of your last meal. From the corner of your eye, you note larva moving and know they long for food. Down the corridor, around a bend, and in a storage room you retrieve the food they need. Your choices, of who to feed and how much you feed them, will determine the work each female larva will carry out as an adult. For several days you care for the larva that not long ago resembled you.
Smells constantly assault you, but you know the meaning of each. One smell, stronger than the others, moves you to purposeful action. You follow the trail out of the nursery, through corridors - clean because of housekeeping ants - and past the guard ant stationed at the colony opening to emerge from the nest, all in lockstep with other forager ants. Bright light floods your eyes and heat energizes you. On you march as the scent strengthens. Nearby guard ants seem undeterred by the smell, but instead of confusing you, you are calmed by their contradictory actions. You have no desire to leave the scent trail but are thankful they do; just as those guards are thankful for the work you are about to do.
As you reach where the scent is strongest, you hoist an object twenty times heavier than you upon your back. Turning alongside your foraging group, you head en masse back toward the nest. Halfway home a novel scent strikes. This one sends you into a tailspin. DANGER! You know you must escape, but how? And to where? A fresh scent guides you to a trail of other workers, and you fall in line. A surer, safer odor rises. The march goes on. The trail circumvents a glistening, woven web featuring several of your family members snagged within its intricate design.
Among the survivors, you continue the march back to the nest, past the guard, into a room just finished by the builders. It is here you safely drop off the cargo you carry. The builders continue expanding the storage area as you leave to return to foraging.
The day passes. The new room fills. Night descends. In your bedroom, you take in the other ants – males who will only remain a few more days and females who work tirelessly, purposefully, and unquestioningly for their queen. Then, as one, you drift silently to sleep. You will need your rest; tomorrow holds a replay of today’s work. Such is the rhythm of life.
While some of us prefer narratives, I realize key details often get lost in translation. Factual details I used in shaping the narrative follow.
Life Cycle of an Ant
- Egg - beginning of life, sometimes eaten for nourishment by adult ants, when matured enough continue to step two (Holbrook, 2009)
- Larva – small, white, wormlike; sometimes cannibalistic to possibly to protect the queen’s bloodline; breakdown solid foods into liquids so the adults may eat; communicate through movement (Ceustemont 2017)
- Pupa – Mostly unmoving, sometimes cocooned; Stage of rest (Holbrook, 2009).
- Adult – Development to this point takes several weeks to months; Take on a caste role (Holbrook, 2009); Communicate by pheromones (Ceustemont, 2017)
Roles of Ants
- Queen – fed more as a larva; lay the eggs; mate with males; begin new colonies (Holbrook 2009).
- Workers – Fed less as a larva; Females; Nurses, Housekeepers, Builders, Gatherers, Guards; Nurses are often the transition from young adult to working adult (Holbrook 2009)
- Males – Mate with queen; short-lived; Do no chores (Holbrook 2009)
Rooms in a Colony
- Nursery – houses the larvae
- Storage room – for food
- Bedrooms – where the ants sleep
- Corridors – connect specialized rooms
This section, while not referenced in the narrative, highlights variations within the ant (aka Formicidae) family. Each species, of which there are over 12,000, has distinctive features (Holbrook 2009). A brief description of selected species follows:
- Army Ants (Eciton) – tiny eyes as they rely on smell and touch in the dark rainforest; large, hooked mandibles for piercing predator skin (Holbrook 2009); regularly clear out houses of roaches and rodents; hunt food moving in organized patterns (Moffett 2020)
- Leafcutter Ant (Atta) – Harvest leaves to produce a fertilizer to grow fungus; Serrated mandibles cut through these leaves.
- Trap-jaw Ant (Odontomachus) - Super speedy mandibles spring shut to catch prey or fling these ants through the air out of harms’ way (Holbrook 2009).
My hope is, through either the narrative or bulleted points, you leave enriched with insight regarding an ant’s ways. Consider reading (or rereading) our post “Why an Ant?” and compiling your own list of wisdom God might desire we gain from ants. After researching to write this post, I must say I’m even more captivated by the wonderous detail, design, and purpose God weaves into every part of creation.
Before You Go, We’d Love to Know:
- What wisdom, apart from being a hard worker, could we impart from an ant?
- What did you learn (or have you known) about ants that intrigues you?
Until next time, fellow stones, may you take time each day to appreciate the grand design, intricate details, and fascinating purposes God formed in every part of creation.
If you're ready to march onward to the next stop in the ant series, "Examining My Inner Sluggard," awaits you.
With Love and Prayers,
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Ceurstemont, Sandrine. “Baby ants have a host of unexpected superpowers.” BBC.com, 6 Apr 2017, http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20170405-baby-ants-have-a-host-of-unexpected-superpowers. Accessed 12 Jan. 2021.
Holbrook, Tate. "Individual Life Cycle of Ants.” ASU - Ask A Biologist, 17 Dec 2009, https://askabiologist.asu.edu/individual-life-cycle. Accessed 12 Jan 2021.
Moffett, Mark W. Adventures Among Ants: A Global Safari with a Cast of Trillions. Berkeley, California, University of California Press, 2020.