National Geographic : 1984 Jun
The Ant Her The Ant and Her O TO THE ANT... consider her ways, and be wise," urged the an cient writer of the sixth chapter of Proverbs. Thus we know that since antiquity ants have fascinated thoughtful men. Yet to the casual observer these creatures, scurrying across a walk or clustered about a crumb, seem as small as specks, as common as dust. Why should they inspire philosophy? Look more closely. The Australian sugar ants above, for instance, might at first glance strike us only for their beauty as they pause to greet each other in a woodland. But notice their mouth-to-mouth greeting. With the intricate, tactile language of their anten nae, two ants have asked their sisters for food. Without hesitation the sisters spread their antennae, open their mandibles, and feed their begging siblings, sacrificing some of the food they have worked strenuously to harvest and store in their own crops. Nothing so symbolizes the allure of ants as this act of nurturing. For what the ants mas tered back in the depths of prehistory is co operation. Besides sharing, they have also organized themselves and divided tasks among one another. Often, as with the sugar ants, they have evolved workers of different shapes and sizes suited to specific jobs. Introduction by CARYL P. HASKINS I Jrr '"~;;""