All for One, One for All
If I weren’t bit by a fireant the other day, I would never have thought of writing about ants. Despite the cortisone cream, fireant bites itch, burn, and take quite a few days to heal.
In primitive human societies, ant bites were considered as having healing powers; therefore, ant bites were used in initiation ceremonies as a test of endurance. That must mean, I am initiated to something without my consent and not for the first time either.
Taking their viewpoint into account, I really don’t blame the ants much. To them, we must seem so careless and so much bigger than Gulliver’s giants. They must suffer multiple casualties everyday, even if our clumsy feet commit their murders unwittingly. When we step on an ant, the crushed ant emits an alarm pheromone in high concentration. That sends other ants nearby into war frenzy and causes them attack anything and everything around the nest.
This waste of ant-life is increased thousands-fold under Florida’s sudden showers that flood their commune and by the pest-control man who pays a visit once a month causing ant-martyrs because of the extermination industry. I watched that Terminex guy at his work, fighting a biological warfare at its best. Wherever he found an ant hill, he put in some granules and watered it. This much stress would make any species go crazy and strike back with vengeance.
To top their aggravation, fireants’ forefathers play a role in their behavioral genes. It is believed that ants have evolved from the wasps and they must have kept the aggressive behavior of wasps somewhere in their DNA structure because their bite hurts and gets swollen just like a wasp’s bite. Worse yet, some ant species, called killer ants, have a tendency to attack much larger animals during their foraging or in defending their nests.
The ant colony works as one unit. In that unit are many ants that act, according to their individual function, for the whole colony to make the ant life practical and effective. Even if there is separateness among the ants, their existence is one complete element. An ant colony does not consist of tiny whole things linked together as in human societies; each ant is a part of the whole without being separate. The ants’ oneness is in harmony with the forces of nature.
Imagine being without legs or arms and needing total care from the others in your youth. Well, that’s an ant’s life for you. Ants do not develop their legs until fully grown; they depend completely on the nurse-ants. When the baby ants develop, they get six legs with prominent elbows, or should we say knees, and off to work they go. The worker ants spent their internship of few days in caring for the queen and the young. After that, they graduate to harder and harder tasks, from digging and nest work to foraging food and defending the nest.
Most of these worker ants are females. Maybe the ant colonies, too, depend on women’s volatile and high-strung view of things. Yet, there’s a place for males in the commune also. The males act as drones and work with the queen to pad up the population. That must mean the females are the fallen soldiers who go out to face the world daily and possibly perish in the path of duty.
The queen–in the beginning of a colony–has quite a few jobs, but as the colony enlarges, her duties are delegated to others, and she becomes the mother of the commune who just lays eggs. Motherhood must have a very respectful and an almost divine throne, since ants appoint body guards to the queen and the body guards form a ring around her. That ring moves with her and expands or contracts according to the situation.
The eggs, or the ant-children, do not belong to the queen, but are the communal possession. As soon as the eggs are laid, they are carried to a separate room to be cared by attendants or nurses. These ants, though not a separate caste–being vigorous and efficient–are at the prime of their lives, and their care of the young, as witnessed by observers, is meticulously and very lovingly administered.
As soon as each young ant is out of the nursery, it gains responsibility and the spirit of the commune directs her to a chosen occupation. The young ant’s role in life is not haphazard and directionless like the young of the human.
If we pause and think, we may understand that, from many angles, there is enlightenment to be gained from the ant colonies, but the most important point is, all ants of the colony act as one whole, making separateness an alien concept. Separateness causes discord in the harmony of life, allowing the ego to abhor or look down upon others.