5 things ants can teach us about management | BBC Ideas


Ants and human societies
are similar in many ways. They live in communities numbering
from just a few individuals up to many millions. They can build vast empires
that span the world. They conduct diplomacy
with neighbouring settlements. And they can even go
to war with each other. All the ants have just one single
intent on their mind, and that’s the reproductive
success of the colony. Everything that they do is directed
towards that one aim. Most ant colonies consist of just
one reproductive individual – the queen –
and many non-reproductive workers. And the workers
are actually all female. So they’re a vast sisterhood
who does all the work. Now the title ‘queen’ seems to imply
some kind of political authority – that the queen is telling the workers
what to do at any one moment in time, but in fact it’s completely
self-organised. In a colony of ants,
there are no fixed managers. There are no CEOs or presidents. Everyone is working towards
the common goal. If one ant finds a trace of food, that ant will become,
in that moment, a leader, and get everyone else
to come into that food source. But the modern organisation
is obsessed with hierarchy. Obsessed with managers
and where you are up on the scale, which number or paygrade you are. And what happens is
lots of people lower down spend all their time trying to guess
what their manager wants, or their manager’s manager wants, rather than what’s going to work
for the organisation and the people they serve. When an ant encounters a food source,
for example, what it can do
on the way back to the colony is lay a trail using pheromones – and these are just chemicals
that they can lay on the ground so that when others ants come
along and encounter that trail, they know to follow it
all the way to the food. So this simple process
of positive feedback is surprisingly effective
at finding the shortest path. The idea,
borrowing from the ant world, of actually getting the data, making sure you’re capturing it from the very people
who are on the coalface, so to speak, makes tons of sense, because they’re the ones
with the rich qualitative data to be able to feed that back
into the decision-making. We have to be self-organised. We have to allow people to have
their own intelligence and wisdom and organize around a problem
or a project themselves, rather than always waiting for
someone else to tell them what to do, or for a three-year business
planning cycle to take effect. Just as ants respond immediately
to changes in their environment, say the diminishing
of a foraging patch, and adapt really quickly
to that change, organisations must be able
to do the same. If, by looking at ants for instance, it stimulates our thinking about how we might
try to do things differently, then that’s worth it
in and of itself. I just think you probably
want to start experimenting in a quite small and bounded way –
but yeah, why not? Thanks for watching. Don’t forget to subscribe and click the bell to receive notifications for new videos. See you again soon!

Weaver Ants | The Guardians of the Canopy

Weaver Ants | The Guardians of the Canopy


hi guys my name is Jordan and in this
video I’m exploring Australia’s topics up in northern Queensland. Here ancient
rainforests stretch as far as the eye can see and are home to an incredibly
diverse range of wildlife. Including one of the most unique ant species I’ve ever
encountered. They are the highly prolific and ingenious Weaver ants. Weaver ants fall under the genus Oecophylla and are found solely within tropical and
subtropical climates throughout Africa Asia and Australia. The ones found here
in Australia are often known as green ants after their vibrant green color. what makes Weaver ants so different from
most other ants is instead of burrowing down and forming their nests within the
ground, Weaver ants form their nests up in the trees. Their homes can usually be
found towards the ends of branches where the fresh healthy leaves sprout. Fruit
bearing trees with broad leaves are favored, but they’ll happily work within
narrow-leaved eucalyptus trees and sometimes will even utilise needle thin
leaves like those from this Beach she-oak. Construction begins with the ants firmly
grabbing hold of a leaf with their mandibles pulling stretching and curling
them into position… Next, the ants do something quite
remarkable they enlist the help of an unlikely ally, their own young. These
small pill shaped grubs are the ants larvae. They’re unable to travel on their
own so the ants carefully carry them over to their worksite. At this point the ants begin to gently
tap their heads using their antennae. This induces the larvae to expel strands
of silk from a small gland underneath their mouths. Normally ant larvae use their silk for metamorphosis spinning a cocoon which
helps protect them as they develop into their pupal form and eventually hatch
as an adult. But in the case of Weaver ants, they use their silken thread to
instead weave leaves together. Creating a super strong binding. Once complete the
ants now have themselves a comfy and safe waterproof refuge, a perfect place
to raise their young and allow their colony to thrive. Younger colonies might
have their nests comprised of just a single leaf curled in half and neatly
stitched together. But as they expand their numbers they gradually create
additional nests. Established Weaver ant colonies may occupy dozens at once, some
with massive nests comprised of hundreds of leaves all clustered purposefully
together. This nest here the size of a beach ball. Other much smaller nests are often
positioned along the perimeter of the colony’s territory acting as outposts.
The first line of defence against intruders, the most common of which being
foreign and colonies. Which may seek to ambush and invade their rivals. This
Vanguard is often occupied by the eldest ants of the colony deemed to be the
most expendable. But it’s not just raiders that the Weaver ants need to
worry about. Here in the dense foliage of the rain forest, plants are constantly
competing with one another, reaching as high as they can to soak up as much
light as possible. So naturally down on the forest floor
not much light seeps through making ground temperatures significantly cooler as ants are cold-blooded animals when in
happening cool climates they aren’t nearly as active limiting their foraging
capabilities and slowing down the growth of their future generations
this gives Weaver ants a significant advantage over the forest ground
dwelling ant species living up in the canopy Weaver ants can stay nice and
warm in the sun’s rays much like a crocodile basking on an open riverbank
the extra heat greatly extends the ants active hours and increases their
productivity but the canopy is ever-changing many
trees lose the battle against neighboring trees which outgrow them
shrouding them in darkness some even become the target of parasitic plants
like this strangler fig which slowly wraps itself around its host restricting
the tree’s ability to grow its dealing their life from above and absorbing up
most of the surrounding nutrients within the soil below so Weaver ants must
actively reposition themselves in order to pursue the sun’s valuable heat the
most successful colonies are often found nearby clearings in the forest alongside
rivers coastlines and cyclone affected areas
where strong winds have torn down temporary clearings in the forest
here along the forest perimeters they’re almost completely unhindered by shade so
the ants can take even better advantage of the sun’s warmth rapidly speeding up
the development cycles of the young helping them grow to enormous sizes some
colonies can be home to hundreds of thousands of ants strong the leaves which form their homes do
inevitably die and crumble into pieces and so must be abandoned for fresh ones
so even in ideal conditions Weaver ants are kept extremely busy constantly
rebuilding renovating and relocating their homes all this hard work requires plenty of
energy which we’ve Rance obtained from two main sources
honey jus and insects honey you is sourced from sap-sucking invertebrates
like these merely bugs here these tiny insects bore their way into fresh plant
stems and leaves and consume their SAP as the SAP is digested they excrete
excess waste in the form of a sugary liquid rich in carbohydrates the perfect
fuel to keep the ever busy Weaver ants going so instead of eating these bugs
themselves the Weaver ants cluster around them waiting patiently for their
sweet reward but most other bugs aren’t so forward-thinking ladybugs love
devouring these little guys the mealy bugs can secrete a powdery wax coating
their bodies which helps discourage their attackers someone but otherwise
they’re virtually defenseless the ants are their real defense as a few of them
feed many others patrol the surrounding area for threats but there are some predators which can
be a much trickier foe to deal with jumping spiders they’re often seen
eyeing off their little friends on their own they’re no match for the Weaver ants
so they must be stealthy and wait for the perfect opportunity to strike if
detected the predator could easily turn into the prey almost spotted the spider
sensibly backs off too risky for this meal weave rants themselves a very
effective predators they have excellent eyesight when compared to most other
ends and can utilize their strong razor-sharp mandibles to great effect
given the chance and they’ll tackle almost anything they find once their
prey is secured each end pulls from multiple directions stretching out and
dismembering their helpless victims so that they can be efficiently returned to
their nests and distributed amongst their corny
a large part of Weaver ants diet are other ants a great source of amino acids
here in the rainforest ants a highly abundant and come in all manner of
shapes and sizes many of the ground dwelling species regularly venture up
into the trees to forage for food but this often means passing through Weaver
ant territory so they must be wary all it takes is a single ant to notice their
presence and soundly along once one ant gets a good grip all it needs to do is
secure their rival down and simply wait for reinforcements to arrive this one on
one scuffle is likely the victims only chance to escape several more quickly follow suit pinning
it down its fate now sealed not only a rival ants and nutritious and reliable
source of food but removing them also reduces competition at the same time any
food that these ants would have discovered and returned back to their
nest now ends up as their own further proliferating their range and dominance the more vast the corney’s territories
the longer distances the ants must cover in order to best utilize the available
resources and to maintain their control over it in dense forests Weaver ants can
easily navigate from one tree to the next thanks to the vast labyrinth of
vines and branches into connecting the canopy allowing them to access and
colonize multiple trees without ever needing to descend the long way down to
the forest floor whilst most comfortable up in the trees
on occasion they will venture down to the ground forage this particular colony
is nested along the beach in and amongst the salt tolerant mangroves regularly
they send out scouting parties during low tide scavenging upon whatever the
water is swept in this gecko here is a notable find and
will be a great source of nourishment for their quarry the answer tempted to
break a park the lizard into more manageable pieces pulling from all
angles some of the ends begin targeting the vulnerable joints slicing into and
spraying them with formic acid this noxious liquid expelled from the ants
abdomens slowly burns and breaks down the flesh within despite the ants determined biting an
acid spring the gecko is proving rather difficult to pour part before the tide
returns it must be either taken to higher ground as is or left behind but
these Weaver ants are more than up to the challenge
they have tiny hooked claws on the ends of their feet giving them incredible
gripping strength even at the steepest and most obscure of angles paired with their ability to work in
synergy with their fellow colony members they are able to accomplish some pretty
remarkable feats hauling our prey much larger than themselves all the way up to
the treetops sometimes Weaver ants will improvise
quicker routes along the way to make their job is a little easier some of
which may at first not even seem possible the path up a low-hanging
branch from the ground below the ants can’t jump or fly across like
other insects mine instead they must build a bridge to close the gap a bridge
made of hands each ant grips on to each other using their mandibles slowly
forming a chain and eventually they’ll link up from
either end and their shortcut is complete such incredible teamwork but
not all members of the colony err is capable of securing prey in traversing
their environment as these answer some rarely venture out from their homes at
all Weaver ants are a polymorphic species meaning they produce different
castes of workers which perform distinct roles within their colony the main cast
are the mages the ones who do most of the foraging in nest building another
first line of defense against intruders the other caste are the miners they look
almost identical to the mages but side-by-side you can see they’re much
smaller in size this cast of worker is assigned to nesting duties spending most
of their time tending to the colony’s developing brood and looking after their
queen the mother to the entire colony quite the accomplishment so that’s we friends there’s such an
incredibly unique and species from the way that they construct their homes from
leaves using their own young as tools to building living bridges to efficiently
scale their surroundings to their brutal yet methodical approach of securing prey
I think what amazes me most is their extreme aggression just slightly
brushing against their nests or a nearby branch is enough to set them into a
frenzy as a defensive response they posture up their bodies and kill their
abdomens over their heads poised to fire out wrapping strings of their formic
acid if this liquid were to get into a potential threat size like a bird or a
lizard it surely made for a great deterrent one of the reasons most other
animals like to give these guys a wide berth next to me dance they’re probably
the most territorial ants I’ve ever encountered regardless I really enjoyed
documenting these guys and exploring the forests which they and countless other
animals call home like giant butterflies and grasshoppers the size of my hand
plenty of other amazing ant species like trap joints jumping adds spider heads golden tailed spiny ants
and lots more the cute little turtles I saw swimming up and down the streams and
the massive saltwater crocodiles hanging out along the estuaries the largest
living reptiles in the world I was even lucky enough to spot three wild southern
cassowaries one of the largest living birds in the world these modern-day
dinosaurs mostly feed on fallen fruit and a highly important seed disperses
many of the forest plants depend entirely on these birds to survive unfortunately they’re an endangered
species mostly due to habitat loss as a result of deforestation
let’s just hope these ancient and incredibly biodiverse forests remain
around for a long time to come sadly Australia has just been hit with
one of its worst bushfire seasons in recorded history which definitely
doesn’t help I’m fortunate to not have been affected
by the fires living here in Melbourne aside from experiencing several days of
thick smoke I could only imagine what it was like
closer to the flames whilst fire is a natural part of the Australian landscape
with some forests actually needing fire in order to reproduce and thrive these
fires following Australia’s 2019 record average high temperatures and low levels
of rainfall burned an unprecedented strength devastating vast amounts of
land and claiming the lives of countless native animals many which managed to
escape the flames had little to no habitats left to them and ended up
either starving or being hunted down by invasive predators like feral cats and
foxes which have an easy time spotting them within the open scorched land
the combination of this extreme heat and prolonged droughts also allowed fire to
reach his way into environments which aren’t naturally adapted to it unable to
fully recover if affected even lush rainforests which
has stood since the Cretaceous period at least 65 million years ago were ablaze
as Earth’s climate changes we can expect to see extreme natural disasters like
these occurring more and more frequently and on even larger scales governments
and policies at least here in Australia really treat environmental concerns
seriously repeatedly dismissing scientific research and delaying the
transition from fossil fuels into cleaner energy production so it’s really
up to us as individuals to take matters into our own hands there’s many places
we can start in reducing our environmental footprint but one of the
most impactful steps we can take is changing something which most of us do
at least three times every day it’s what we eat whilst often-overlooked animal
agriculture is one of the main drivers of deforestation fresh water usage
species extinction and greenhouse gas emissions so avoiding the consumption of
animal products like meat dairy and eggs is a simple way we can all collectively
make a huge difference helping to conserve and restore the natural world
and bring it back to its former glory oh no I don’t know this channel is
almost at a hundred thousand subscribers thank you guys so much for your
overwhelming support over the years when I started making videos back in 2014 I
honestly never expected more than a hundred people to be interested let
alone nearly a hundred thousand it’s really great to see that there’s so many
of you out there deeply interested in ads also a big thanks to my generous
patreon supporters for helping make these videos possible and a special
thanks to my top-tier supporters and Iker Ben Cargill John Overton nicholas
atkins and thomas window now on to the regular giveaway where you
guys get a chance to win one of our specially designed air phones in my last
video on medias I asked what do you find most interesting about them I think what
I find so interesting is the way that they kick box to resolve their
territorial disputes with rival colonies such a quirky yet highly civilized
strategy of success so the winner is Alex Boyd who is most interested in how
medians can predate Australia’s invasive cane toads making them conservationists
ants of sorts and was also fascinated with how medians and sugar ants are able
to coincide due to their opposite foraging hours a great display of how
maidens have their own niche in their ecosystem congratulations Alex you’ve
just won yourself one of our acrylic starter kits for next videos giveaway
we’ll be putting one of our white song starter kits up for grabs which includes
one of our founding size of white or nests along with a bunch of accessories
to enter simply answer the following what do you find most interesting about
Weaver ants is it the way that they stitch leaves together how they build
living bridges or something else post your answers in
the comment section below I’ll pick out a single comment and announce them as
the winner in my next video as always thanks for watching and I hope you enjoy

Ant Control – Ant Colonies – Ant Guru


Welcome we’re talking today about ants specifically
ants in the desert I want to go over how ants bred what a ant colony is Under what conditions should you
expect to find an ant problem I want to tell how they operate how they react
to certain types of sprays talk about the ants themselves Ants live in a colony there a social
insect there may be different kinds of workers
in the colony there’s the queen or multiple queens those are the ones who are
responsible for reproducing they lay eggs deep in the nest queens an important fact to know about
queens they never ever come out another important fact is that there are worker majors and
worker miners what we call them forgeres and only about twenty percent of an
average colony ever comes out of its nest in other words are, I’ll repeat that only twenty percent ever come out of the
nest so if they take a vacuum and vacuum up all the ants they see, did they get rid of there ant
problem no because the worker miners are the ones that help
the queen and help the baby larva and the baby ants grow up to be big ants
and they never come out and they always have food supply in their nest. But there is
a fourth class called the winged reproductives those are the ants that sometimes have wings
on them and they are males and females and they
fly up and usually mate in the air and they fly to a new location and they
start a new colony of all the different classes probably the most
important are the queens because unless you get the queen you don’t get rid of the problem a lot of people ask the question why do ants
walk in a line everybody knows that ants walk in a
line and they walk in a line because certain
forger ants can lay down a chemical trail it’s a little chemical hormone that
they lay down and other ants follow it to the food
source chemical trails laid down by ants can
last up to a year how does that, I mean what
implications or what what is the kind of conclusions can we
draw from that well if we eliminate an ant colony that is in a consumer’s wall completely eliminate it right? let’s say there’s another ant colony floating around in their yard just kind of living out there and they
pick up on the chemical trail that led into the house that lead the first colony
into the house they pick up on that they can shoot right up in. It’s like a freeway
system is already been built for them so it’s like there floating around out in the yard living kinda good but its still hot there still
looking for a better place to live they come across that chemical trail that
that forger ant put down from last colony that we eliminated and they’ll
shoot right back into the house

Ranger Nick: Why So Many Ant Mounds Right Now?

Ranger Nick: Why So Many Ant Mounds Right Now?


[Upbeat Music]
[Dr. Nick Fuhrman/UGA Professor, “Ranger Nick”] Well as we start this new year off, maybe
the holidays have you driving around maybe across the interstate looking out across some
farm pastures and seeing what look like little mounds of soil, maybe fire ant mounds, and
it had you wondering, “Why am I seeing more of them right now? What is the deal with that?” I thought I’d explore that with you this month
and introduce you to somebody who knows quite a bit about this, and that’s Dr. Will Hudson. Dr. Hudson, so nice to meet you. [Dr. Hudson]
Good to see you Nick [Ranger Nick]
I appreciate you spending some time with us today. I want to talk about fire ants, and I want
to talk specifically about a particular mound that we’re standing in front of today. I often see that maybe after a rain at night
or after the temperatures have been maybe a little cooler, I’ll walk out in my yard
and find fire ant mounds that were not there a day or two ago, and I think that maybe I’m
just seeing things. What is the deal with that? Why are we seeing more of those like this
one after a rain at night, after a cooler night? Why is that? [Dr. Will Hudson/UGA Professor of Entomology]
Well, particularly if the conditions have been real hot and dry before that, the rain
provides the ants with the perfect conditions to rebuild their mound. The colony’s always been there, well not always,
but it was there before. [Ranger Nick]
Oh, okay. [Dr. Hudson]
The dirt that you see suddenly pop up is just the dirt that they moved out of the tunnels
and the chambers that are underground where they live, and that’s why suddenly they have
a mound built that wasn’t apparent to you before. The colony itself has been there for months. [Ranger Nick]
Under the soil. [Dr. Hudson]
Under the soil. [Ranger Nick]
I can’t see them, okay. [Dr. Hudson]
They had a mound, but then either they got rained on, or it got stepped on, or it got
so dry that the soil wouldn’t hold its structure, and as soon as the soil conditions are right
they can build that mound back up. [Ranger Nick]
Interesting. And sometimes in South Georgia or the southeast
where there’s more sandy soils, maybe those mounds aren’t as high I guess because the
clumping ability of that soil is not there. [Dr. Hudson]
Right, you can pile clay up higher than you can pile sand. [Ranger Nick]
Yeah. [Dr. Hudson]
That’s the bottom line on that. [Ranger Nick]
Now let’s look at, if you don’t mind, let’s look at this one together. And I just happen to have my son’s little
shovel with me today. Here’s this mound. I’m noticing in this mound all of these little
particles of sand and clay are the same size. You’re saying, thinking to us, that they are
pushing these particles up out of the ground after it rains. They’re cleaning out what has washed down. Is that what you’re saying? [Dr. Hudson]
Right, and they’re not pushing, they’re carrying them one at a time in their jaws. They’ve got no other, they’ve got no pockets,
so they’re carrying them one at a time up there. [Ranger Nick]
Yeah and this, and I can kind of see some holes in there, and I just kind of want to
dig in and see what … and look at this, look at what we’re able to see with these
smaller holes and these tunnels. Now these guys must be down low because it’s
been cooler at night, and they’re down low getting warm. Is that what you’re saying? [Dr. Hudson]
Right, they’ll be up at the top of the mound. If it were a bright, sunny day today they
would probably be up there basking not on the outside but just inside. You can see the tunnels, all of these right
in here are places where they can come up. As the sun warms the soil, they warm up too
because they’re cold blooded. They’re trying to get to a place where the
temperature is most comfortable for them. [Ranger Nick]
Which that’s so interesting, and that dynamic of those ants under the ground, that’s what
I want to talk with you about next is going and looking at the culture of these ants. And I promise I won’t put my hand in there,
but I do want to kind of move some things around with you and see some of those areas
of work. So let’s go there next. [Ranger Nick]
Okay, so we’ve had a cooler night. We’ve had a rainy night. The mound is now showing up outside of the
ground, and I’m looking at this. And Dr. Hudson, we’re looking at this together,
I’m going to just kind of dig into this a little. Before I disturb it too much … Oh my gosh,
and the beautiful caverns. First of all, these little guys with wings,
are they ants? I’ve never seen an ant with wings. [Dr. Hudson]
Well yes. They are ants. Those are the ones that are the, what we call
reproductives. That’s the males and females that will mate. Then the new queens will start the next colony. [Ranger Nick]
Wow, so and they’re mating, but they have to fly to mate? I mean, that’s why they have the wings? [Dr. Hudson]
They fly up into the air. If you see it, it’s usually late in the afternoon,
it looks like a little plume of smoke coming up. [Ranger Nick]
Wow, okay. [Dr. Hudson]
And they mate in the air, and they fall back to the ground. Males die. [Ranger Nick]
Okay [Dr. Hudson]
The females lose their wings and go into the ground and create a small chamber, start laying
eggs, and that becomes the next colony. [Ranger Nick]
Wow, okay. [Dr. Hudson]
That why I say if you’re talking about fire ants, you need to think of it as a colony
not as individual ants. [Ranger Nick]
Interesting. So now okay, so I’m looking at this, and I
know we’re looking up close on the camera too. So we’ve got the ones with wings which we
now know are reproductive ants, but there’s other ones that are bigger, and I see one
moving a little granule of soil. Bigger ones and then there’s smaller ones. Is that an age difference, or do they have
different hierarchy in their family there, their colony? [Dr. Hudson]
Ants as all insects, once they become adults they don’t grow anymore. Their skeleton is on the outside so they can’t
grow anymore, so. [Ranger Nick]
I’ve got to do this. Sorry, I just have to look in here. I have to see what’s going on. [Dr. Hudson]
No, that’s fine. [Ranger Nick]
Look at this. Look at that. [Dr. Hudson]
There are different sizes of individuals. Some of that is related to the jobs that they
do in the colony, and some of it is just variation in size just as people are different sizes. [Nick]
Okay [Dr. Hudson]
So you get some variation that way. [Ranger Nick]
Interesting. Now I would have loved to have talked to some
of these ants today, Dr. Hudson, to find out their perspective on what they think of us
humans disturbing their mounds and everything, but I’ve got to tell you. With a little boy at home and a little girl
at home as well that will soon be walking, we go out in the yard, and we have a thing
of that ant spray that we buy from the local hardware store. Miles and I spray that stuff all over the
mound, and we say, “We have killed the ants.” Then a couple of days later we see them again. What are we doing wrong? [Dr. Hudson]
Well, you saw the structure of the mound. It goes a long way down into the dirt, and
if all you do is spray the surface you’re not beginning to get down to the area where
the money is. [Ranger Nick]
Yeah, yeah. [Dr. Hudson]
Which is you’ve got to kill the queen. If you don’t affect the queen, you can’t control
the colony. So you’ve got to put that insecticide, if
you’re going to treat an individual mound, you have to put it in enough water that it
carries the insecticide all the way down to the bottom of the mound where the queen is. [Ranger Nick]
And how much water are we talking? [Dr. Hudson]
At least a gallon of water per average size mound. [Ranger Nick]
Wow, okay. [Dr. Hudson]
Because there’s a lot of volume of soil in there, and you’ve got to get all the way down
through it. [Ranger Nick]
Okay. Now what if I’ve got a bigger area of land
I’m going to tackle? Maybe the bucket isn’t going to be enough. What do you do then? [Dr. Hudson]
If you’re up to, if you’re over an acre, for sure over an acre, then you need to be using
a bait. If you put it out twice a year … There used
to be a guarantee on some brands that you would have no mounds. [Ranger Nick]
Okay. [Dr. Hudson]
Right? That’s pretty good. [Ranger Nick]
All right, yeah. [Dr. Hudson]
If you’re in smaller than an acre then if you’re treating mounds individually, that’s
a thing for retired people. [Ranger Nick]
Okay….”Laughing” [Dr. Hudson]
Because you’re going to be doing that constantly, and you never win that. [Ranger Nick]
Yeah. [Dr. Hudson]
So you need to treat the whole area. [Ranger Nick]
Excellent. [Dr. Hudson]
And if you treat the whole area with a broadcast spray or spread granules out you can suppress
ants, and suppress is all you’re going to do with that sort of treatment for anywhere
from a few weeks to a couple of months. [Ranger Nick]
Interesting. [Dr. Hudson]
And that’s it. [Ranger Nick]
Well I got to tell you, I don’t know about the folks at home, I have learned so much
about what I’m doing wrong. I’ve learned so much about the culture of
the ant colony. Dr. Hudson, thanks so much for today. I so appreciate it. Such an interesting topic. I can’t wait for the folks at home to see
it. You all know what to do. When you’re at home checking things out online
maybe about fire ants in your area, hop on over to the Farm Monitor Facebook page and
check that out. While you’re on Facebook, check out the Ranger
Nick Facebook page and see what I’ve got going on in my world. Until next time, as I always say Dr. Hudson,
for the Farm Monitor I’m Ranger Nick reminding you that enthusiasm is contagious. So pass it on. You all, thanks so much for watching. We’ll see you right back here again next month. See you. [Fast paced music]

Mating frenzies, sperm hoards, and brood raids: the life of a fire ant queen – Walter R. Tschinkel


It’s June, just after a heavy rainfall, and the sky is filling with creatures
we wouldn’t normally expect to find there. At first glance,
this might be a disturbing sight. But for the lucky males and females
of Solenopsis invicta, otherwise known as fire ants,
it’s a day of romance. This is the nuptial flight, when thousands of reproduction-capable
male and female ants, called alates,
take wing for the first and last time. But even for successful males
who manage to avoid winged predators, this mating frenzy will prove lethal. And for a successfully mated female,
her work is only beginning. Having secured a lifetime supply of sperm
from her departed mate, our new queen must now single-handedly
start an entire colony. Descending to the ground, she searches for a suitable spot
to build her nest. Ideally, she can find somewhere
with loose, easy-to-dig soil— like farmland
already disturbed by human activity. Once she finds the perfect spot,
she breaks off her wings— creating the stubs
that establish her royal status. Then, she starts digging
a descending tunnel ending in a chamber. Here the queen begins laying her eggs,
about ten per day, and the first larvae hatch within a week. Over the next three weeks, the new queen relies on a separate batch
of unfertilized eggs to nourish both herself and her brood, losing half her body weight
in the process. Thankfully, after about 20 days, these larvae grow
into the first generation of workers, ready to forage for food
and sustain their shrunken queen. Her daughters
will have to work quickly though— returning their mother
to good health is urgent. In the surrounding area, dozens of neighboring queens
are building their own ant armies. These colonies
have peacefully coexisted so far, but once workers appear, a phenomenon known as brood-raiding
begins. Workers from nests
up to several meters away begin to steal offspring
from our queen. Our colony retaliates, but new waves of raiders
from even further away overwhelm the workers. Within hours, the raiders have taken
our queen’s entire brood supply to the largest nearby nest— and the queen’s surviving daughters
abandon her. Chasing her last chance of survival, the queen follows the raiding trail
to the winning nest. She fends off other losing queens
and the defending nest’s workers, fighting her way
to the top of the brood pile. Her daughters help their mother succeed
where other queens fail— defeating the reigning monarch,
and usurping the brood pile. Eventually,
all the remaining challengers fail, until only one queen—
and one brood pile— remains. Now presiding over several hundred workers
in the neighborhood’s largest nest, our victorious queen begins
aiding her colony in its primary goal: reproduction. For the next several years,
the colony only produces sterile workers. But once their population
exceeds about 23,000, it changes course. From now on, every spring, the colony will produce
fertile alate males and females. The colony spawns these larger ants
throughout the early summer, and returns to worker production
in the fall. After heavy rainfalls,
these alates take to the skies, and spread their queen’s genes
up to a couple hundred meters downwind. But to contribute
to this annual mating frenzy, the colony must continue to thrive
as one massive super-organism. Every day, younger ants feed the queen
and tend to the brood, while older workers
forage for food and defend the nest. When intruders strike, these older warriors fend them off
using poisonous venom. After rainfalls,
the colony comes together, using the wet dirt to expand their nest. And when a disastrous flood
drowns their home, the sisters band together
into a massive living raft— carrying their queen to safety. But no matter how resilient, the life of a colony must come to an end. After about 8 years,
our queen runs out of sperm and can no longer replace dying workers. The nest’s population dwindles,
and eventually, they’re taken over
by a neighboring colony. Our queen’s reign is over,
but her genetic legacy lives on.