"Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest."
Even a small household must have some organization to keep enough food and supplies on hand for the family. Yet, the thousands of members in an ant colony never run short of supplies even though there is no central organization and not one shopping list. Modern science is discovering how the ant's astonishing system works.
An ant colony depends on worker ants to bring in water and supplies. In the morning, workers search mainly for drops of dew that can be carried into the nest. Some of the water is shared with nest mates. Some of the water is delivered to the brood chambers where immature ants are still developing. This water is used to soak the ground to keep the humidity inside the chamber high. Food is likewise collected by the workers and returned to the colony to be shared with every member of the colony. Food is most often shared by regurgitation.
To learn how widespread this sharing in the colony is, researchers gave one worker ant sugar water that was radioactively tagged. Within a day, some of the tagged material had been shared with every member of the colony. Within a week, every member of the colony had an equal amount of the tag. This means that through continuous food sharing every member of the colony always has an equal amount of food. When one worker is hungry, she knows that the entire colony is hungry.
This simple, yet ingenious grocery system designed by the Creator keeps ant colonies supplied through the sparsest of times.
Notes: E. O. Wilson. 1985. Discover, August, pp. 47-49.
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