The Intelligence of Ants and A Life on the Ocean Wave
The Intelligence of Ants by Sir John Lubbock
1. The subject of ants is a wide one. There are at least a thousand species of ants, all with their own habits.
2. A community of ants includes:
*the males, which do not work
*the wingless workers
*and one or more queen mothers
3. The queens have wings at first, but after one marriage flight, they throw them off, as they never leave the nest again. The wingless workers carry on all the work of the community. Some of the workers remain in the nest, make tunnels, and tend the young. The young are sorted by age, so that many nests often look like a school, with the children arranged in classes.
4. As far as we yet know, ants do not have a “ruler.” The “queens” are really mothers. But it is true that the working ants and bees always turn their heads towards the queen. It seems as if the sight of her makes them happy.
5. One time, while I was moving some ants from one nest into another, I, unfortunately, crushed the queen and killed her. The others did not desert her or drag her out as they do dead workers. They carried her into the new nest, and then into a larger one. They gathered around her for weeks just as if she had been alive. I could not help thinking that they were mourning her loss or hoping for her recovery.
6. The communities of ants are sometimes very large, containing up to 500,000 ants. And, while they do not fight with members of their own community, they will not tolerate any intruders. I have introduced ants from one of my nests into another nest of the same species, and they were attacked, grabbed by a leg or an antenna, and dragged out.
7. The ants of each community all recognize one another, which is very remarkable. But more than this, I several times divided a nest into two halves and separated them for a year and nine months. At the end of that time, they still recognized one another. They were perfectly friendly to each other, while they at once attacked ants from a different nest.
8. In one of my nests, an ant injured her legs so much that she lay on her back, helpless. For three months, however, she was carefully fed and cared for by the other ants. In another case, an ant had injured her antennae. I watched her carefully to see what would happen. For some days, she did not leave the nest. At last, one day, she went outside. After a while, she met a stranger ant of the same species, but belonging to another nest, which attacked her at once.
9. I tried to separate them, but she was badly hurt and lay helplessly on her side. Several others passed her without taking any notice, but soon one came up, examined her carefully with her antennae, and carried her off tenderly to the nest. No one who saw it could have denied that ants do take care of each other.