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What is a Good Ant Versus a Bad Ant?

Updated on May 5, 2017
grand old lady profile image

Mona writes a column for Enrich Magazine which is distributed in five countries. She is interested in learning as she writes.

Why Thoreau would be a bad ant

Henry David Thoreau would have been a bad ant, because he advocated:

1. Individualism, which threatens the ants’ way of life.
2. Thoreau said,“Pursue some path, however narrow and crooked, in which you can walk with love and reverence.

The ants would never be able to get it.

Ants and mankind

Human sized ant civilization would be the worst curse that could ever invade mankind, because:

1. The success of an ant colony depends on its predictability.
2. When challenges arise, ants have fixed ways to deal with them.
3. Individualism has no place for the colony to survive.

Quiz: Which of the three ants below is the most powerful ant?

There are three groups of ants, and each group has its specific functions and skills. The groups of ants are:

The soldier ant

The worker ant

The queen ant

Answer: The worker ant.

Each ant category has a specific job. For example:

1. The queen's job is to procreate some 30,000 eggs annually.
2. The soldier eggs guard the queen, following fixed schedules.
3. The worker ants look for leaves, which they bring to the ant mound, and mix the leaves with fungi -- the only food the ants eat.

Worker ants are powerful because:

1. When the queen gives birth, the worker ants decide which newborns will be workers, and which ones will be soldiers.
2. They do this by controlling the food portions per group. Soldiers are fed more because they are bigger than workers.

Ants are a strictly feminist society

An ant community is strictly feminist.

1. All the ants are sisters.
2. Male ants have wings, because some males will procreate with the queen ant and die. Other male ants can fly away in search of another Queen ant to procreate with, and die.

Female ants still pay their dues

Remember the two child limit in China? The ants have a zero child limit. In sum:

1. Only the queen can give birth.
2. Most workers ants are sterile, but there are exceptions. If a worker ant is pregnant, the other ants will kill it before the ant can give birth.

Surprisingly, ants can become aggressive when colonies are competing. Here is a video by Attenborough to show how they compete:

Ants - Attenborough: Life in the Undergrowth - BBC

When ants in a single colony compete

Ants in a single colony can also compete. This was shown in a lab study that was published in the journal, Proceedings of the Royal Society B., where tests were conducted with several ant colonies in one setting. This is what they discovered in some single colonies (as featured in Live Science):

1. Sometimes when it is advantageous to a colony's survival, it will have more than one queen.
2. After the eggs are hatched, the extra queens are killed until only one is left. Sometimes, the workers are overstimulated and end up killing all queens.
3. The workers kill the queens by biting them and releasing an acid spray continually until the queen dies.

Ant colonies are cool to kids

Ants may not be amiable to us, but they are an interesting group of insects to observe. My nephew is fascinated with ants and keeps an ant colony of his own. It is fun to hear his own observations of his colony, because a young one's perspective is always unique and interesting.

Can the queen ant fight for her life?

Not really because:

1. One way a queen tries to survive when she sees that other queen ants are present, is to be "selfish" and produce fewer eggs, so she will have more physical strength to fight back when the worker ants attack her. (Ergo, the more eggs a queen produces, the more weak she becomes physically after giving birth, making more her more vulnerable when the worker ants attack).
2. But workers can detect "selfish" queens, because the more fertile a queen is, the stronger odors she emits.
3. The worker ants can kill the "selfish" queen while she is pregnant.

Ants are more complex than we realize

My nephew read this book about ants and he keeps it with him all the time. I think he might become a scientist someday, or an Asian David Attenborough. Who knows?

Ants compared to humans

Scientist Luke Holman, from the Center for Social Evolution of the University of Copenhagen told LiveScience, "Execution of the most selfish ant queens by workers would increase the incentive for queens to be team-players that work hard to help the colony. This rudimentary 'legal system' could have helped ants to evolve their highly advanced societies, just as in humans."

It disturbs me more than a little that this similarity exists between humans and ants. In fact, if you look at this video, you wonder -- if they were humans, what kind of love story will this be?

Summons of the Queen ant - Ant Attack - BBC

© 2017 Mona Sabalones Gonzalez


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    • grand old lady profile imageAUTHOR

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 

      24 months ago from Philippines

      Hello Besarien, you really made me laugh when you suggested I be a good queen and lead a conga dance. I don't know how to dance, but I am a good follower, so maybe I should be somewhere near the back of the conga line so no one gets upset if the line slows down midway:). Thank you for visiting and I am most grateful for your comment.

    • Besarien profile image


      24 months ago from South Florida

      Hello Mona! I loved this hub! They are so fascinating to watch. Just recently I saw a popsicle stick zipping down the sidewalk. Not until I got right on top of it could I just make out a line of tiny, almost invisibly pale ants called, appropriately enough, ghost ants! For how many reports of the supernatural must they be responsible?

      The only bad ants so far as I was concerned were ones attacking me. If they leave me alone, I am their biggest fan. I did not know about selfish queens. Your explanation made a lot of sense. Thank you! I love learning new things!

      BTW Mel, I agree with you once again. We should do our own thing then become more like ants to reach a common goal. Unfortunately, I have trouble starting a conga line. I nominate Grand Old Lady as our good queen. Long many she reign!

    • grand old lady profile imageAUTHOR

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 

      2 years ago from Philippines

      Hello Mel, how wonderful to hear from you! I agree, we should be ants in their good habits, but also not be like them. I have yet to hear of an ant colony that died of starvation. If only, in that sense, mankind could learn lessons of economy. Attenborough is a classic. Thank you for your kind hopes about my nephew:).

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 

      2 years ago from San Diego California

      Human beings should not be ants, but then again we should be. We should be free thinkers, unlike ants, but then again we have to team together at times for the good of the colony. I really loved this concise study. I am a big fan of David Atenborough. Sometimes when I am painting or doing some other task where my attention is not on the TV, I'll turn on one of his BBC documentaries just to hear him talk. I hope your nephew turns out to be the Atenborough of the Philippines. Great hub!

    • grand old lady profile imageAUTHOR

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 

      2 years ago from Philippines

      Thank you Changing Tides for your kind comment. Yes, I would hate for humanity to go the way of the ants. If there is anything that ants teach us, it is what society becomes when it has no heart.

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      Amazing, will share with everyone

    • grand old lady profile imageAUTHOR

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 

      2 years ago from Philippines

      I feel so blessed:). My favorite people in Hub Pages have taken time to read this piece. Ms. Dora, I'm grateful that you like the article and that you took time to read it and touch base with me through your comment:). EricDierker, you can't imagine how it feels to hear someone say he will share an article with his son. Thank you very much! Billybuc, thank you for your kind words about my writing, and for complimenting the analogy. Who doesn't love Thoreau? FlourishAnyway, true, they are a brutal society, and the leader seems to be more like a slave, don't you agree? It seems like no one is happy in the ant kingdom, and everyone must do their job because of this system that they live in. We humans have it so much better:)

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      2 years ago from The Caribbean

      Mona, this article is very interesting--both the information and your treatment of it. A sterling presentation!

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      2 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Really cool. You did great here. Will share with son this evening

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Wonderful analogy. This is the kind of writing I love...creative, socially active....very well done!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      2 years ago from USA

      What a brutal society they have, and being the leader isn't all it's cut out to be.


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