National Geographic : 1912 Aug
Photo by Mr. J. G. Hubbard and Dr. O. S . Strong PORTION OF A Camponotus amtericanus COLONY WITH WORKERS AND VIRGIN QUEENS Five pairs of workers are seen in the act of feeding one another by regurgitating liquid food from the social stomach or crop. Many observers, especially McCook, have dwelt on the exquisite care bestowed by ants on their own bodies and those of their comrades. Much of the time spent by these insects in the dark recesses of their nests is devoted to cleansing the surfaces of their bodies with their tongues and strigils. This process is not only neces sary for removing all particles of the earth in which the ants work so much of their lives, but it also invests their bodies with a coating of slightly oleaginous saliva, which probably protects them from moisture and may be sufficiently antiseptic to prevent the growth of lethal moulds and bacteria. A DETERMINED ATTEMPT AT SELF CIVILIZATION As ants were primitively carnivorous or predacious insects, it is rather difficult to understand how they could have de veloped societies at all, for as a general rule we find that predacious animals, which have to hunt their prey or to lie in wait for it, like the spiders, hawks, and tigers, live solitary lives, and that only vegetarians like the caterpillars, sparrows, rodents, and ruminants, which have easy access to a large amount of food, develop gregarious or social habits. There can be no doubt that the ants have found it difficult to reconcile their carnivorous appetites with their social proclivities, for we find that they have attempted this reconciliation in diverse ways. Most of the species of the oldest, most primitive, and most conservative sub family, the Ponerinse, have not been able to relinquish their carnivorous habits, and have therefore been prevented from forming large colonies. Most of the species of this subfamily, in fact, form colonies of only a few dozen individuals, and these colonies are, moreover, rare and depauperate in appearance.