What We Can Learn From Ants


What We Can Learn From Ants

Have you ever had invasion of ants on your kitchen counter or in the bathroom? I tried different methods to get rid of them, however every winter, when it rains, they are back. I decided to write about ants after coming across an article in the July 25, 2020 publication of Popular Science, “Ants could help us beat future pandemics”, written by Michael Schulson. What surprised me was that scientists have been studying how deadly pathogens affect ant colonies, even before the Covid-19 pandemic.

Turns out that “Social insects like black garden ants are some of the most successful creatures on the planet. Their strong cooperative systems protect the general health and well-being of both leaders and individuals in the colony.” Scientists discovered that “Some of those methods can seem alien. Others, including simple immunization-like behavior and forms of insect social distancing, can seem eerily familiar.” But what especially struck me was the question – “What if pathogens were not an incidental nuisance to colonies, but a profound threat that shaped the very evolution of their societies?” This question prompted me to think about our current pandemic. What if, for some mysterious reason, COVID-19 also serves as a tool in the process of human evolution?

The article is based on the research done by many scientists. One of them is Natalie Stroeymeyt from the University of Bristol in the UK. According to her, “Human public health departments are only a couple of centuries old, while ant societies have been evolving for millions of years”. “It’s very rare to find a colony collapsing under the weight of a pathogen,” Stroeymeyt writes. “We know that their mechanisms are extremely effective.” Can we learn from ants or stubbornly try on our own?

P.S. Since ants are quite small, it is challenging to photograph them. I was fortunate to be able to capture four images last year on my trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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