Ants Are Growing Food and They’re Better at It Than We Are

Ants Are Growing Food and They’re Better at It Than We Are


Humans created farming around 12,000 years
ago. But there was another species that independently
created farming waaay before we did…. 55 million years before, in fact. It wasn’t the neanderthal, or any ape, actually…
it was an insect. The lowly ant. Specifically these guys. You’ve all probably seen a clip like this
on a nature documentary, setting the scene of a wild rainforest. But, in the rainforest it’s not really obvious
what they’re doing. Let me put it this way, if you put leafcutter
ants into an ant farm, and watched them build a colony. You’d have an ant farm farm! They don’t farm corn or cows — but fungus!
(we’ll come back to that). Leafcutter ants like the famous Atta cephalotes
literally cut leaves and then carry them on their backs to their colony. But have you ever thought what they do when
they get there? Because the ants don’t eat those leaves
they carry. That’s what I thought they did. Nope. They use them to grow crops… for agriculture! Agriculture, by definition is “the science
or practice of farming, including cultivation of the soil for the growing of crops and the
rearing of animals to provide food, wool, and other products.” Ants are doing this! They dig growing chambers in deep tunnels
to control the temperature, and bring dew and water from the surface to the chambers
to control humidity of their crops — and this is where the leaves come in. The Atta ants drink the sap, clean the leaves,
crush them up, and compost them with their own fecal liquid. And the fungus (basidiomycete type) grows
on this “soil” they create. Then, they harvest bits of the fungus and
use it to feed the colony. Just like human farmers. We’re still new to farming. Wheat is one of the oldest farmed grains,
but it wasn’t until Norman Borlaug bred two special wheats together that humans could
finally use it to feed millions of people! He won the Nobel Peace Prize for that in 1970. But that is n00b science in comparison to
ants who have been using agriculture to feed millions of ants for millions of years. Atta ants have evolved over millions of years
alongside their crops, weeding, watering, and preening. One species of ant has even cultivated a fungal
line that produces high-yields to feed more ants! No Peace prize for them though. The coolest part about this, is some of the
250 species of ant that have evolved agriculture, have also cultivated their crop so much, that
without the ants, it would die. The fungus only exists to feed the ants! The other cool thing? Ants aren’t the only farming species out
there. Termites also are fungal farmers — and here
you thought they were just eating your house, nope they feed some bits to their fungal friends. Damselfish are the only known fish to be agriculturalists,
farming algae for their food. There are even species of beetle and snail
with this practice. But c’mon. Why should we care? Because we’ve only been farming 12,000 years. And scientists are not sure farming is sustainable
practice. We have to feed billions of people, meaning
we need monocultures — one super-plant that can feed lots of people, like the Borlaug
wheat. But growing crops this way can deplete soil
(like with corn) or subject large crops to disease (like with monoculture bananas). The Atta ants and other fungal farmers have
been cultivating monocultures for millions of years. If we can learn how they manage to avoid devastation
by disease, or how they protect their crops from parasites — maybe we could support another
few billion of our own human colony. Aren’t ants awesome? Want to learn more about them? We talked to a bug scientist and you can check
out the interview here. What do y’all think of these mini farmers? Let us know in the comments, and don’t forget
to subscribe, and come back for more videos.

100 thoughts on “Ants Are Growing Food and They’re Better at It Than We Are”

  1. The praise for monoculture seemed like the videos great mistake. Human farming has much to gain from investing in various crops.

  2. They also grow weed, if you're looking for a drug dealer go to Jason he is a ant in New Jersey and grows 3 pounds of weed everyday. Only $30,000 an Oz

  3. but is monoculture really that good of an idea? Are the monoculture ants successful because of monoculture or despite it and they just beat the odds? Whose really in control? The ants who eat the fungus or the fungus that got the entire ant population to focus all their resources on the ultimate goal of keeping that fungus alive? For all we know, that fungus could be a happy drug that gets the ants high and shortens their life span. Or maybe its super healthy and doubles it. We don't know that one yet

    Monoculture may be more efficient, but its also a more fragile system. We keep making the mistake of thinking that survival of the fittest means there's onle one best thing that survives, but look around you. There are millions of things surviving quite well in your back yard alone, not to mention your own body. Multiple species coexist in equilibrium within the same ecological neich bounded not only by space, but also by time. As the condition of that neich changes over time, individual species with a fragility to that change may move or die out, but the variety ups the odds that some species may survive the change, hence Life still survives and will continue to make, not the same one thing over and over again, but slightly different things over and over again. Life in general has been at this game a lot longer than the ants have. Variety ups the odds that something in your group will have evolved by chance (or design if you're into that sort of thing — Yea variety of thought! to paraphrase Patrick Henry) the ability to survive the next neich change so that some of that group will survive and continue. But its not only that. Inorder to maintain equilibrium, species with more chance of survival will sacrifice some of their resources to up the odds of survival of a species that left on its own would not have survived the change. You can actually watch this happening on the TV show survivor, where a stronger player will support a weaker through the game in order to get their vote and maintain equilibrium, until the environment changes and now the weaker player has the advantage and then supports his old friend through this change… or dosen't and this person forms a new equilibrium with the existing players. But the prior help ups the odds that help will be returned in favor of maintaining the old equilibrium.

  4. do y'all ever think about how plants co-evolved with us and incentivise humans for cultivating and propagating them? Like plants use us as a means of production.

  5. The only reason we need to feed billions of people is the fact that there are billions of people. Overpopulation underlies most of our problems. The Green Revolution only made things worse.

  6. Here is how to eliminate one problem: close the loop. Start composting and reusing our own poo instead of flushing it out into the ocean. It's a valuable source of minerals and we pay to get rid of it!

  7. i dont think it would be sustainabzle for us to grow crops to feed our ever-increasing population because we are so much larger and greedier than those insects and fish…like we would need to colonise entire planets just for agriculture

  8. Yeah ANTS are awesome, until they get in your fudging house and eat all your ship even when it's in a "seal proof container"

  9. “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.”
    ‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭6:6-8‬ ‭KJV‬‬

    Pretty amazing what God created 6000 years ago.

  10. make a a video called
    ANTS VS TERMITES
    EPIC BATTLE WHICH YOU CANT EXPLAIN ….because you cant see

  11. Why do humans waste so much food?
    and by not doing so we can reduce CO2 emissions to quiet a considerable amount.
    And this is probably the easiest way to tackle global warming.
    So we should focus more on distribution than production.

  12. The ants are better farmers because they are altruists. We suck at feeding each other because we're greedy hoarders.

  13. i really did not know any species farmed but humans until now to this i do agree if we can learn from them then we can probably exist without having to go to another rock in the solar system for longer

  14. Ants are communists – of course the are better at everything because they don't exploit everything for profit.

  15. We don't have to grow modified crops in massive volumes. We just need every home, school, grocery store in the world to have an indoor vertical (or other) garden growing food right where we consume it, and guaranteed pesticide-free.

  16. Growing to the point of being parasitic and scientist thing that farming isn't sustainable… Maybe we should focus on population control. You know, like how removing predators can make a population of, say, deer get out of control. It's not that agriculture isn't sustainable, it's that population growth isnt sustainable

  17. Some ants also farm aphids and harvest the aphid's poop for food they even move the aphids to better feeding areas when the current feeding area is depleted. They will even protect the aphids from predators and ants from other colonies.

  18. Maybe the smaller global scale for the ants plus the renewing of fertilizer by recycled poopwater helps?

  19. Ants actually use the leaves to feed the fungi which create "fungal sugars" on which they feed and also they cover their bodies with mycelium as well as an antibiotic, yes, where we have discovered penicillin (a fungi) only 100 years ago, Ants have been using this to protect themselves in this fashion for millions of years. They were the first apothecaries on the planet.

  20. We use GMOs, so no, we do it better. There's actually enough food to feed the whole planet, but that doesn't mean it can get to everyone, due to time constraints/local conflicts.

  21. I always think highly of ants, and I think ants are awesome… but not when they're biting you (or err… pinching? you?) xP
    but yeah… ants are awesome xP

  22. No we don't "need to learn from them", we already know what they do so well. Do you see any animals being fed to be eaten? No, you do not. We can feed the entire planet with the land we have. We cannot feed the planet and 20 billion livestock. There's no magic trick to hunger or pollution; stop eating as much meat.

  23. I am better than ants. I grow and manipulate bacterial and fungus mats in soil. Using them I can grow anything. Anywhere. I can extract them from the soil, and grow on rocks. Or in artificial materials. I can saturate water with them, and grow directly in water. I can spray them directly on the surface of plants, and inoculate with root drenches. I can even pump them through spray nozzles in an aeroponics system.

    There is nothing I cannot grow, in any conditions. My bacteria and fungus also fix the PH, protect against disease, and deliver nutrients the purity of which has co-evolved to be perfect in every imaginable way over many hundreds of millions of years.

    The garbage you buy in the store, that is industrial waste. Chemical waste refined into "chemically identical" nutrients for plants. Bacteria and Fungus basically do the same thing but their waste is Nutrients the plant can use and nothing else. But our waste…, it needs refinement. Expensive, and terribly inefficient, refinement. And we suck at it.

    Bacteria and Fungus have evolved specifically to deliver nutrients at a level of purity human refinement cannot approach. Plants have evolved tiny sugar releasing glands in their root systems that carefully regulate the growth of these bacteria and fungus by altering the sugars frequency and PH. Allowing the root system itself to regulate delivery to the plant. The careful manipulation of which, can result in massive yield increases in times of favorable conditions. Naturally.

    Some plants will even emit hormones that attract protective microbial life, and even coat those tiny animals in protective layers of film that prevent the bacteria and fungus from infecting them.

    Chemical solutions using human refinement on the other hand. They do the opposite of everything listed here. They throw the PH off, so you have to correct it, they are poorly refined, so there is a ton of waste and salts you need to flush, these wastes kill bacteria and fungus in the soil as does the anaerobic conditions found in regularly flushed soil, so you have to increase Chemical feeding more and more over time to compensate for the loss of microbial nutrient delivery, this semi-sterile, and occasionally anaerobic environment results in harmful bacterial and fungal growth, requiring dependence on fungicides and antibacterial treatments that would otherwise be done naturally by healthy fungus and bacterial mats, and because the ground is sterilized and salted over time, the beneficial microbes can never form a defensive population, so you must manage pest populations in the soil with even more chemicals, or by breeding your own defensive population and inoculating regularly with it.

    Nature knows how plants and soil work best together in all conditions. Humans know almost nothing about what happens in the soil to make that possible. We just kill everything we don't like and try to isolate positive reactions. Nature does not work this way.

    My way is better. Better than human refinement, better than insect cultivation, and it uses a zero sum arrangement that you can carefully modify and thereby activate natural chemical reactions the plant is already evolved to use. You feed and protect the Rhizosphere, not the plants. The plants get everything they need from the air and the microbes. Everything. This method is also infinitely sustainable and will allow the growth of food crops in space and on other terrestrial objects in the solar system.

    Feed the Microbes, and they will feed you. This is how nature works. There is no reason to fix what ain't broken.

  24. What we can be sure of is, these ants aren't climate change deniers. So, may I: "Ants for President!!! Ants 2020!!!"

  25. ancient aliens probably dont exist, and didnt teach us farming. or they evolved to farm like the ants did, and just tought us. or the ants are the aliens.

  26. I hate how plants will be grown on vertical walls in the future. Stupid, greedy animals take up too much land to graze.

  27. We already eat yeast extract and mushrooms, growing vats of fungus to feed the world isn't too hard to imagine.

  28. Ants also herd animals. There are a few that protect bugs that suck sap and put out a sugary liquid similar how we get milk from livestock. also ants farm other ways some live in trees and the tree feeds them and they kill competing plants and defend it from being eaten.

  29. 2:59 says we need one super crop that can feed lots of people. What about one crop that can feed lots of people, build our houses, cloth us, provide us with a sustainable fuel source, has a wide range of medical benefits, reduces our carbon footprint, and grows in almost every climate?

    Cannabis

  30. we don't want to feed an extra couple of billion like you said we need to feed everyone alive today adequately and reduce amount of offspring so that we can have a smaller world pop.

  31. Ant farm farm xD
    I'm starting with a Camponotus colony, hopefully Trap-Jaws and maybe even ant farm farms in the future xd

  32. Animals have been farming since forever. They've tilled the land, dropped the seeds, planted them by trampling them or burying them for later use, only to forget about. Thus, crops, after the rains and sun of course.
    They may have done this without "knowledge" of doing so. But over a millennium or so, I'm sure biological memory allowed them to continue, up to this day.

  33. the answer to not depleting soil or subjecting to large crops to disease is to use your own fecal juices like the ants

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