Ant Farm: Day 8

My ants were left alone for the weekend and while there were no great monuments built to me, they also did not die. I can accept this lack of extremes.
Today was another watering day…an activity that fills me with dread. When the ant farm was first set up, you had to pour in quite a bit of water to make sure that the convenient, easy to carry sand was evenly moist for the comfort of the ants. Now the sand is dry and I am only to put in a few drops of water but I fear that I won’t put in enough and it will distribute itself too evenly and the ants wont be able to survive this horrible arid experience.
Watering time brought unmatched excitement to my ants today. With freedom hill complete and functional I was wary of opening my ant farm to water them, as well I should have been. Upon opening the village section and squeezing the eye dropper of clean water, the ants scattered and made a break for it. The ants had planned well in the construction of their beloved freedom hill, but how could they foresee the world outside their village? One brave ant made it out, hitting the surface of the file cabinet with a barely audible click. He recovered and ran, what else could he do? He ran straight for the edge of the cabinet where I stood waiting with the cover to their village. He was promptly tossed back in and the village sealed.
Surely this ant must have been awestruck at his experience. What would you think if you ran off your world and made a great leap into the unknown only to find yourself falling from your sky back into your world? You would think you had discovered a wormhole in the universe. Your fellow ants would see you as a mythical hero. You would be part Antstronaut, part Albert Antstein. Your fellow ants would throw a parade in your honor and you would feast on succulent sprouts and suck water from the ground. Surely, your fellow ants would want to do that if your fellow ants had the ability to remember stuff that had happened 30 seconds before. Fame and glory are fleeting in the ant world.
Today my little ants are sluggish and boring. After mulling the situation, I have determined that it is because it is noticeably cooler in my office now than it was last week. Our cooling system was set to deal with the high tempuratures last week and now that it is cooler this week the system can pump out very cold air. Even I am slightly chilled. I can almost hear my ants complaining. “What is this with the coldness? We used to be happy. It was warm and it felt good. Now we got cold, and we got young ants dancing in the walkways and buildings. What do we want for buildings. Acch, what I wouldn’t give for a little of the old days.” “But, papa, don’t you remember? The sand was not so convenient or easy to carry then. And there were many creatures who ate us. Papa, we have food and we have water, such as it is, and an amazing lack of ant eaters here.” “Feh, go on with you. My knees hurt from the cold.”
i will look into heating options for them soon. On a side note: Carbon dioxide still sends them into a frenzy, but a slower, more sluggish frenzy.

Ant Farm: Day 5

Like fast learning children, my ants know that freedom is up. To this end, they have constructed a glorious roundtop hill that they may climb and reach the edge of the cover. Upon reaching the edge, they may dangle from it as though the price of freedom is the presidential physical fitness award in the ant world. No such luck for these ants. All that dangling ony serves to make them tired and attract the “GIGANTIC EYE OF THE OUTERWORLD”.
My Uncle Milton Ant Farm Club Ant Feeding and Care Schedule tells me precisely when to feed and water my ants but it doesn not tell me where. It was watering day and my instructions tell me to “add a few drops of clear drinking water”. Add it to what?? I just squirted it onto the convenient, easy to carry sand and hoped for the best. Suck, my little ants, suck this water for life!!
Even more sprouts showed up proving my ants are truly worthy of any awards or recognition that might come their way from the farming ant community. They are truly The Masters of Their Universe with their abilities to maintain a hectic city life as well as cultivate food for themselves and future generations. Many of us would do well to look to the ant for the kind of inspiration that is lacking today.
Even with their heart-rendering, inspiration-inspiring activities, I still found my ants to be losing steam in the entertainment value area. They had already built their tunnels and they eat regularly and they even came up with their own dance moves, but the fire seems gone. Granted, I have argued with myself and some of those arguments were compelling “They’re just ants, let them live comfortably and naturally. You can’t learn about ants if they are acting contrary to nature. They aren’t circus ants, they are harvester ants. God, haven’t they given you enough already. “. Eventually i told myself to shut up and I decided to try something. I know that ants are very closely related to bees and wasps. I also know that bees react strongly to increased carbon dioxide as a sign of an intruder breathing in their space (first breathing, then honey stealing and bee squishing and hive smashing, best to stop it early). I wondered if ants would also react to carbon dioxide increases. So I blew in their air holes and and boy do they react. they aren’t as organized as cartoon ants, but they jump to attention immediately and they all run in circles tapping each other on the head and searching for their intruder.

Ant Farm: Day 4

The most respected piece of literature on ants is the “Uncle Milton’s Ant Watcher’s Guide to The Ant Farm Village”(1995). In this tome, we find ants described as industrious, social, and they like to eat. While I found their information about the cleanliness of ants to be less than trustworthy, I see that this information is remarkably on the mark. My ants have built themselves a little restaurant and they frequent it often! They have collected all of their food and buried it on one side (luckily the one by me so I noticed it) and throughout the day small groups of 5 to 10 ants will come over and dine on a delectable “blend of protein, seeds, grains, vitamins and minerals that are good for ants”(Uncle Milton’s Ant Watcher’s Guide to The Ant Farm Village ’95).
When you and I go to a restaurant with our friends, we sit in our leatherette booths and quietly eat our food while conversing jovially. While supplied with many luxuries (such as convenient, easy to carry sand), my ants do not have booths. They go to dine at Chez Fourmis they must shove their head into the sand and eat what they find. Eating is such an enjoyable experience for them (Ants Like to Eat – Uncle Milton) that while in this prone position they wildly wave their hindmost legs and tap them on anything nearby.
With the burying of their food which includes seeds comes even more sprouting. The ants enjoy this new addition to their world immensely. A few ants have discovered that they can climb the sprout and then reeeaaaccchhh up and grab the edge where the cover connects to the base. The more athletic ones will grab on to the edge and then hang and hang. You can almost hear their desperate little cries “let us out, please let us out”. By guessing that they have a language based on taps i try to convey to them in each tap that the world outside their village is harsh and and angry. The sand is not convenient or easy to carry and the food tastes bad. Soon they will learn.
Ants are a curious lot (I made that up, I don’t know what Uncle Milton thinks). Some of them are experimenting with different modes of travel. The method that has every ant’s giddy attention is the ant version of Lionel Richie’s Seminal Hit, “Dancin on the Ceilin'”. In this walk, the ants enter a tube and flip onto their backs and desperately try to walk along the top of the tubes. While ants are not subject to man’s law (or even Burke’s Law) they are subject to the laws of physics and the ants are left flailing like useless infants.
This brings us to another intersting ant issue. Remember their little pile-ups in the ant tubes? Well, many of these pile-ups are caused by the Lionel Richie fans. When an ant is walking from one place to another he is seemingly preprogrammed with a set of instructions, but he does not have any error handling code to refer to when he meets an obstacle. When an ant is walking from the purple farm on his way to Chez Fourmis and he encounters a Lionel Richie fan in his way, he just keeps walking even if he is incapable of moving forward. This ant will walk and walk and walk in place until the L.R. fan gets up and moves. Imagine 6 ants all converging on a hapless ceiling dancer at once. Sitcoms have been made on lesser premises.

Ant Farm: Day 3

My experiment was relegated to unnecessary status this morning when I came in to find that the ants had indeed begun to tunnel in the shaded areas of their farm. Perhaps they just needed time to get back there. Interestingly, all sand tunneled from the 2 mini-farms is not left on top of the farms but dutifully brought to the village and dumped on the trees and buildings.
All ant literature, namely the “Ant Watcher’s Guide to the Ant Farm Village”, speaks highly of the ants’ neatness and cleanliness. Well, I am here to tell you that this is a LIE. Their convenient, easy to carry sand started out white as the driven snow, but now has a quality similar to the snow in February near the freeway. On closer inspection, I found tiny brown specks mixed in with their beautiful white sand. I can only assume that this detritus is ant crap and I am a little appalled at both the enormous amount and the evenness with which it is distributed in the sand.
The ant cemetary seems to be missing or hidden from view and the head carrier seems to have found a new activity, or perhaps he was killed in his sleep by the others.
Originally, I would have thought that “Ant Farm” was just a cute name for my thoroughly educational toy, now I find this nomenclature to be very accurate. One of the seeds from the ant food mix has sprouted and is growing. Perhaps they will allow this plant to grow and come to seed and they will collect these seeds and start anew next season.
I thought that having an ant farm in an office full of adults would be easier than having one with kids around. That is not the case here. How often do i have to say ‘No, don’t shake the ant farm’? Too often.

Ant Farm: Day 2

The Puritan work ethic has nothing on ants. After a day of orientation and an evening with the lights off, I come in to find that half of their village section has been tunneled through. Of course, ants bring their tunnel detritus to the top so not only does the little faux village look like a 1950’s post-atomic experiment nightmare with uber-ants having their way with the place, but now everything is mostly covered in convenient, easy to carry ant farm sand.
Ants are a little more macabre about their dead than I first expected. Initially there was a little ant cemetary set up for the less fortunate in the village, but when I came in this morning that had been moved. Upon further investigation, there seems to be 2 or 3 ants whose only job is to move dead ant carcasses from one location to another. What kind of fucked up ant karma do these little guys have to possess to be the Corpse Cartage of the ant world?
Do ants go insane? Perhaps. Or perhaps ant farm owners are not on top of things. My observations have revealed one particular ant who runs around frenetically (as ants do) carrying an ant head. Perhaps this ant is carrying different heads, trying to get them all in one place, or perhaps there are multiple ants transporting one head around, but this ant is slightly larger than the others and seems a little crazier than the rest. Impartial observation? Probably. Anthropomorphizing the ants? Perhaps. Projecting my own fears and anxieties onto the psyches of a species incapable of insanity? SHUT UP!
Another interesting observation is that the ants seem to be working more in the areas exposed to more light. The entire setup is partially under a counter and therefore partially shaded. The ants are avoiding the shaded area. Tomorrow I will carefully flip the village around and see if their habits change.
Ants would also make horrible drivers even in specially modified cars. They tend to find themselves in traffic jams all the time and if there are more than 3 involved it can take quite a while to resolve it. After an initial antenna scuffle they just sit there, unmoving. At first I thought i had a plug of dead ants in one of my tubes but 30 minutes later they slowly started extricating themselves from the pile. Too bad Eric Estrada is not around to help save them from this 30 ant Chips-style pile up.