Look at these ants “pave” a piece of sticky tape with sand

Originally published at: Look at these ants "pave" a piece of sticky tape with sand | Boing Boing


They give me the shpilkes [SHPEEL-keys].


I don’t like walking on sticky surfaces.
I don’t like walking on surfaces covered in glass shards.


Fair, though the experimenters only left them three options: sticky surface, glass shards, Lego bricks. They made the correct choice.


From what I’ve read other species usually pave surfaces like this with their own bodies, whether that’s accidental or deliberate I’m not sure.


Boooooo fire ants suck.


We were in Florida many moons ago when our daughter was 9 or 10, we stopped along a parkway to look at some wildlife.

When we got in the car she started doing the what are these things crawling on me dance in the backseat. She had been standing on some fire ants or some sort of ants who wasted no time in trying to drag her into the swamp.

We laugh about it now.


seem to remember some ant horror scene in one of the indiana jones movies involving larger than average ants flowing over the ground to cover something - maybe a german soldier…


I’m glad humans moved away from that practice. PA sees some sizable potholes this time of year and I don’t have enough neighbors to fill them all in easily.


How do we know this isn’t just the result of the ants moving the bits of glass around randomly, and the glass just getting stuck on the tape and staying there? Same outcome, but a whole lot less intentionality.

Mind you, when they try and drag you off to the swamp, that’s definitely intentional.


…Because there is a video, and you can see the gravel isn’t being moved around randomly, it stays in place until it is moved to the tape.

When you are the size of an ant, they aren’t shards, they are paving stones.


You’ve invented an automatic Ant Bedazzler!

There should be some kind of Nobel Prize for this…


I am not squeamish at all when it comes to scenes like that but for some reason that scene creeps me out. Maybe because now we know it’s possible.

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Yeh, I think this is a valid concern. The problem with the video is perceptually, especially when sped up, it’s difficult to tell whether the ants are moving it to the sticky location or if the sand tends to end up there and stay there. We don’t know the average direction of ants conditioned on whether it has a sand in its mouth or not. It’s a pretty reasonable issue of confounding factors on inferring causation.

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When visiting friends in NC, I apparently got too close to some type of nasty anthill in their back yard. Walked away, then noticed that my feet were starting to itch and sting. Half a dozen bug bites later, I can reiterate “Fire ants are not your friends.” It took nearly a month for the darn things to heal right.

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Finally a use for all those ant farms!

ah yeah, then don’t look at this: Indiana Jones 4 (9/10) Movie CLIP - Giant Ants (2008) HD - YouTube

The twitter account shared the link to the study but the full article costs money.

The article introduction says the behavior was also observed in the field.


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The best way to capture large prey is for sure to dive en masse down their throat, then have your sisters carry them off with you inside them. This is an accurate reflection of how animals would behave and not at all imagining them as living and dying solely to make people squeamish. :neutral_face:

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Many years ago while desert backpacking in Utah I set up my tent next to a large colony of harvester ants. (they are not aggressive unless disturbed). Overnight there was a light rain. When I woke in the morning the mounded entrance to the colony was sparkling white! It was covered with crystals about the size of grains of rice. The ant were busily carrying these down into their underground domain. In an hour or so the mound was back to its usual appearance. I can only surmise that the ants had previously collected hygroscopic crystals, spread them out to absorb the rain, and carried them back underground to humidify their dwelling. If so, this was pre-planned sophisticated use of a tool.