Thursday, March 8, 2007

Today's Theme is "Ants"


I was a judge today for a high-school science fair. There were some pretty horrible projects. One was “What Kind of Music Makes My Dog Eat More?” (Answer: Nickelback.) Another was “Do Insurance Claims Due to Collisions With Deer Go Up in November?” (Answer: According to the Internet, yes!) There were a couple of good projects, though, including one in which a girl ran ants through a maze to determine whether they used pheromones or landmarks to find their way. She was somewhat surprised to find that the ants she was using used pheromones; she had read a research article in which a different species of ant was using landmarks.

When I got home tonight, I found about twenty giant ants in my kitchen sink. They were black with rust-colored abdomens. Not as big as bullet ants from Costa Rica or carpenter ants from New Mexico, but much, much bigger than the little Argentine ants you normally find in a house. I turned on the water to wash the ants down the drain, and used the dishcloth to brush a few more off the counter. I felt guilty—I don’t like killing things—but I can’t have ants in the house.

I came back an hour later, and there were thirty or so of the big ants wandering around the sink and the counter. This time when I turned on the water, they began scrambling around as if one of them had sounded an alarm. I could see where they were coming from—there was a crack between the wallboard behind the counter and the counter itself. A few ran back behind the wallboard, while I chased the others around with the dishcloth—I didn’t want to get ant-bit. When I brushed them with the dishcloth, they held on for dear life. Do the ants have a fear of death? They don’t even have a brain—just a pair of ganglia above and below the esophagus. I finally got them all washed down the drain.

My sink isn’t dirty; there are no crumbs or drops of soda to attract the ants. I barely have any food in the house. The ants don’t appear to be congregating anywhere. I remembered the science fair project and scrubbed down the counter and sink—I don’t want any pheromone trails leading ants into my kitchen.

But now there are thirty more ants in the sink. And, there’s an earwig on the floor. What the hell is going on?

10 comments:

Keifus said...

Has something to do with Arkansas, maybe? Our ants don't come out till summer.

My wife and I watched the little (not so little) creatures scuttle their way up through a hold under the siding on the porch. We (by which I mean I) caulked like mad, but you can't realistically plug all the ant-size holes. Certainly not in a non-hermetically sealed house that's as old as I am...

I get kind of tired of looking at the malevolent little bastards crawling across my kitchen floor, but they don't appear to eat much, and well...

(My middle school science fair project was beyond wretched, and I've managed, much like the Rubik's cube solution, to cleanse it from my abused ganglia. One of the very few intellectual nuggets I'm happy forgetting. The rock-music-and-rodents projects were less bad.)

K (Oh shit, there's an ant!!)

ioaotr: iota's triumph

Archaeopteryx said...

Jeez. I hadn't really thought of them as malevolent. Now when I see them, I'll imagine they're scowling at me--operating both ganglia at full speed in some sort of an effort to take me down--along with the Hershey's Dark Chocolate miniatures I'm holding.

That's funny--I, too, had blocked my awful, awful junior high science fair project from my memory. Think I'll just go back to that...

hipparchia said...

joining the awful-science-fair-projects-fotgotten brigade.....

i've never had an ant infestation in any of the places lived, new, old, hermetically sealed, or open to the heavens. i wonder if the roaches keep them at bay?

noovgku: novigrad kuru

Archaeopteryx said...

Hipparchia: that may be the solution. I know y'all have some pretty impressive cockroaches down there. I had a friend who visited Florida once to, um, make a purchase, who claimed to have seen a roach so big he felt compelled to shoot it.

Keifus: down here, we get to enjoy most insects pretty much year round. Ants, roaches, mosquitos, bees, redwasps, my friend the earwig, you name it. I found two shameless craneflies mating in the floor of the Piggly Wiggly last week. (Folks call craneflies "skeeter hawks" here, under the mistaken impression that they eat mosquitos).

Keifus said...

I know we're all sick of brains and consciousness as a theme, but those ants "talk" to each other, sorta, and who knows what's going on up a level? if you get 50 billion of the little suckers together, I think you got the potential for malice.

(I wasn't kidding either. Pretty much exactly as I was replying to your post, I saw the season's first ant. And a whole lot of them since. It appears my younger daughter has been covertly dipping things in sugar.)

K

ifwqcea: but if we're quick...

august said...

I've mentioned this before, but one of my all time favorite essays is Lewis Thomas comparing humans and ants in Lives of a Cell.

Keif -- I'm definitely not sick of consciousness. I find it endlessly fascinating.

I also remember Feynman doing experiments with ants, but I can't remember where I read it. QED? Seems unlikely...

Keifus said...

Hi august, I was thinking of Douglas Hofsadter's description of the anthill as analogue for the heirarchies in the mind. (I wan't really sick of it, just not in a mood to attempt anything like rigor.) I'm going to google up that Thomas essay--sounds interesting.

K

peoooio: (wasn't me)

fluffy black puppies said...

those we call "palmetto bugs"

topazz said...

The summer after we moved into our house, we had an infestation of carpenter ants - the really big ugly black shiny ones. Suddenly they were just everywhere, I even found one in my bed. When the exterminator came out, he showed me how they were crawling in more or less a continuous straight line, one right behind the other, directly from an old dead tree in the woods behind our backyard. There must've been millions of them in that tree, it was the most fascinating and grotesque sight I've ever seen. He doused that tree good and proper, whatever he used is probably banned now, this was 14 years ago.

Nowadays I prefer using the method my mother used, taught by her mother: pouring scalding, boiling water on the little buggers from a big old teakettle. Take THAT, you disgusting little creeping insect. (Especially effective on sidewalks.)

N said...

Till, when they come to the valley of the ants, one of the ants said" O, ants enter your dwellings, lest Suleiman and his hosts crush you, while they perceive not.( suret al-naml 18 – ants)

"In this verse, there is a clear evidence that ants have a language to understand one another and Allah gifted Suleiman with the ability to hear and understand these sounds. The scientists attempt to grasp these acoustic signals that ants utter. Yet, they distinguished four different kinds of these sounds after very long years of watching."

This is from 14 centuries. From the glorious Qura'an. It should be time for those who have doubts about Mohammad to question themselves...

Ants talk here:
http://home.olemiss.edu/~hickling/

More to read here:
http://www.bismikaallahuma.org/archi...-in-the-quran/

And here:

http://knol.google.com/k/ahmed-abdo/ants-speak/1nf8rodgg6k5e/1#

And here too:
http://www.emuslim.com/QuranandScience/Zoology.asp

For more readings:
http://www.55a.net/firas/english/?page=mix&select_page=who

Enjoy your reading and listenning :-)
__________

Who is Dr. Maurice Bucaille..?where is he from; and what did he say about (.........)