Saturday, August 1, 2009


Ant, an insect. There are several kinds of ants, some of which are noted for their wonderful intelligence. Most kinds live in communities of hundreds or even thousands of members. They are divided into three classes: the females, which are the largest in size; the males; and the workers or nurses, which are the smallest. All except the workers have wings. After the pairing season the males are allowed to stray away and soon die. The females are carefully guarded by the workers, but occasionally one of the females or queens escapes and founds a colony. The eggs are laid in parcels of three or four loosely joined together and are carried about by the workers or nurses, or by the parent if alone, and exposed to the sunlight during the day and protected from the dampness at night. As soon as the larvae or grubs are hatched, they are treated in the same way, being fed by a liquid from the stomach of the parent, until they reach the proper age to spin their cocoons around them, The cocoons again are treated as the eggs and grubs were, and ripe for their second birth(hint), the young ants are cut out of their enclosing cells.

The workers are the most interesting of the three classes of ants. Besides acting as nurses, they supply all the food and are the builders of their wonderful colonies with their houses and streets, by processes of mining, masonry and carpentry. The mining ants dig long galleries in the clay, removing the rubbish, building pillars to support the work and covering the whole with a thatch of grass stems. The red and yellow field ants are the masons. They first raise pillars and then spring arches over them, covering them with the loose piles of soil which we know as anthills. The carpenter ants bore their cells in the solid timber of trees, side by side, with partitions no thicker than paper. A kind of ant in Australia builds its houses of leaves fastened together with a kind of glue. Ants are very strong, carrying animals for food, or masses of material several times larger then themselves; and they are willing to work night and day. They eat various kinds of food. They are fond of the juice of little insects called aphids, and some kinds of ants capture those insects and use them as milchcows. Many ants live on decaying vegetable and animal matter. In some hot countries are large, flesh-eating ants, which move in swarms over the land, searching for insects of all kinds, each carrying his own prey. In South America, when a swarm is seen approaching, the people leave their houses and let the ants clear out the insects which infest them. In Texas is a kind of farming ant, which is said to plant cultivate and harvest a kind of grain, laying it up in cells for a rainy day. This kind also "builds paved cities, constructs roads, and keeps a large military force." (sound familiar?)

Some varieties,, like the amazon or warrior ant, are slaveholders. They go out in warlike expeditions against tribes of smaller ants and capture their eggs and cocoons, which they bring home, dooming the ants hatched from them to lifelong labor. (I guess thats where the idea of the slave trade came from)

TERMITES, or white ants, belong to a different order from the common ant. They live in vast communities, generally in the tropics, and do much damage, devouring everything that comes in their way. They are very productive, one female laying as many as 80,000 eggs. their homes are very large, sometimes twelve feet high, in the shape of a cone, and so strongly built that a man may stand upon them. The queen is imprisoned in a large chamber in the interior. The food is mainly dry and decaying wood,

Encyclopedia 1897