Even Educated Ants Do It

Even Educated Ants Do It

What do educated ants do? More on that later. In the meantime, I discovered a marvellous group on Facebook where we all pretend to be ants in an ant colony. With nearly 1.5 million human ant members, it rivals most real ant colonies.

Ant Colony Group

A typical post on the ant colony group goes something like this.

Ant colony group post

If you join the colony you have to think like an ant. Everyone T Y P E S L I K E T H I S. If you ask why, you receive no answers. You get shouted down as an I M P O S T E R. There is no place for questions or individual thought. The survival of the colony and the queen is all that matters. This results in hundreds or thousands of mostly identical comments exhorting other ants to W O R K, B I T E, L I F T or P R O T E C T T H E Q U E E N. If you must introduce new responses, ideally they are anty. Think I N S O L A N T, L A D Y G A G A N T or A N T M A Z I N G.

Human ant colony is real

The relentless adherence to the theme and role is oddly appealing and perhaps a little sinister. I am reminded of Star Trek’s Borg. I feel also that I am missing something, but perhaps that’s because I have not yet mastered thinking like an ant.

Other Role Play Groups

After joining the ant colony, Facebook suggested several other ant colonies for my consideration (but you should be in O N L Y O N E). Intriguingly, other themed role play groups popped up, too. Many of them pre-date the 2020 COVID-19 lockdown, so enforced boredom is not the reason. Take your pick:

  • A group where we all pretend to live in the same neighbourhood (43.4K members)
  • A group where we all pretend to be Karens (6.6K members)
  • We pretend It’s 2007-2012 Internet (604K members)
  • We pretend It’s 1897 Internet (66K members)
  • A group where we speak gibberish and pretend to understand each other (8.8K members)
  • A group where we all pretend to work in the same office. (126K members)

There are lots of others. I had no idea.

So What Do Educated Ants Do?

Among the funny, inane and downright strange posts that fill the ant colony feed, I came across an interesting study completed by the University of Lausanne, Switzerland. They discovered that foraging ants exposed to an infectious fungus spent more time than usual outside the colony. But it wasn’t only contaminated ants that behaved differently. Foragers that had not been exposed directly to the fungus (but detected its presence on their peers?) also spent more time away from the nest. And nurse ants moved the young developing ants they cared for further into the nest and spent more time acting as a buffer between them and foragers. This was described as “spatial isolation from the foragers”.

In other words, they practiced social distancing. Clever little things.

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