Sunday, September 4, 2011

Ants in Trees!

Pottering in the garden yesterday, I noticed ants climbing a tree. Unusual behaviour for ants, I thought, and I watched an ant climb the tree to see what it was up to. I was further surprised to see it visit a colony of about thirty little brown things huddled together on a young branch.

That, or course, was not the only one. Wider inspection showed me several colonies like that scattered throughout the tree, usually between twenty to forty eggs parked on a branch. That’s if they were eggs, which seemed most likely.

A few ants, carefully checking and caring for these little parasites, attended each one of these nurseries. Parasites was my next guess, as, I assumed, parked on a young succulent branch gave them access to easy sustenance.

I always thought that ants lived in an underground nest where a queen would produce eggs cared for by the ant community. Surely safer than sending a parade of ants, which I had also noticed, to a tree to care for the next generation.

Perhaps someone can enlighten me about this crazy ant behaviour. Have they been infected by some brain disease, or heading to the next stage of evolution? The exposed progeny were certainly in danger as a strong jet from my garden hose confirmed.

Thinking about evolution, reminded me of a difficulty evolution poses itself. Why don’t ants rule the world? Based on survival of the fittest, species that clone have a distinct advantage over those that propagate sexually.

Flaws in the genes of parents of sexual reproduction mean that offspring are also flawed and liable to disease and failure of purpose—reproduction. Besides, sexual reproduction (apart from conception!) is slow and laborious, compared with an insect queen churning out an assembly line of identical flawless copies.

Besides, even the Bible points to the ant as more industrious than humans are, “Go to the ant, you sluggard”! Proverbs 6:6. In addition, they are far more efficient and less destructive in building their empires.

The most likely reason for their low status on the planet’s pecking order, is that they are designed to be less thoughtful than humans are, purposefully limited in their ability and capacity to think beyond their little world—even if it means putting eggs in trees!

And I have yet to meet an ant that is worried about facing God in the next life!