Can Humans Compete with 'Super' Ants and Humongous Fungus?
Byline: Burt Constable
We interrupt the depressing news of how the U.S. superpower can't stop the daily slaughter of and by human beings in the Middle East to bring you the uplifting story of ants that have united Europe to form one peace-loving, resource-pooling, picnic-embracing entomological super colony.
Stretching from the Italian Riviera to northwest Spain (roughly the same as from Chicago to Phoenix and back again), the super colony is the largest ant co-op ever recorded. Instead of warring queendoms, the billions of ants maintain separate nests but all get along fabulously.
While I am so very happy for the ants in a sycophantic sort of way, I fear this may be how dinosaurs greeted the news that mammals seemed to be doing well. I see this ant super colony as a portent of the end of the human reign, and the beginning of a terrifying Planet of the Ants, where human slaves toil to prepare perpetual picnic feasts for their six-legged conquerors.
Ants already are perhaps the most dominant life form on earth. They outnumber us, outweigh us (their total poundage exceeded ours even before Jared went on his Subway diet), and have been known to kill tigers (I'll get to that later). So it seems logical that if ants can unite their forces, they might decide to make a run at world domination. That seems especially likely given that this European super colony contains ants that migrated from Argentina, which is where all the Nazi ants fled after losing World War II.
Shouldn't we be afraid, very, very afraid?
"In terms of ants taking over? No," says Richard L. Brown, professor of entomology at Mississippi State University. "Don't view the ants as planning a strategy or saying, 'Let's all get along.' The ants aren't making a decision. The decision has been made for them."
Like many human immigrants, these ants, whose ancestors are believed to have arrived in Europe around 1920 in shipments of plants from South America, fare better if they stick together. Ants often form massive co-ops the size of several city blocks, but this is the largest super colony known, Brown explains, adding that there are no doubt even bigger ant super colonies as yet undiscovered.
And, getting back to that tiger-eating ant story, the ravenous "driver" ants of Africa did kill and devour a tiger that was caged in a zoo, the "fire ants" creeping northward in the United States have killed people, and so have the "army ants" of South America. …