The Daily Ant hosts a weekly series, Philosophy Phridays, in which real philosophers share their thoughts at the intersection of ants and philosophy. This is the eighth contribution in the series, submitted by Dr. Ben Roth.


Concerning Wittgenstein’s 284th Philosophical Investigation

“And now look at a wriggling [insect] and at once these difficulties vanish and pain seems able to get a foothold here, where before everything was, so to speak, too smooth for it.”

Have you ever been stung by a fire ant? Even if you haven’t, you probably know how (supposedly) bad and evil fire ants are. Yet fire ants, and a couple other well-known invasive ant species like Argentine ants, are only a few out of about 13,000 known species of ants, and they give all of these other species a bad rap. So today, let’s look at a new study by co-first authors Kevin Li and Yifan He and colleagues that properly flips the script: invasive plants push around friendly native ants.

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The big bad shrub, Elaeagnus umbellata

As regular readers of The Daily Ant know already, ants harbor lots of bacteria. A growing number of studies are revealing that we should investigate these microbial communities, and their associations with their hosts, in order to fully understand the ecology and evolution of ants. In pursuit of this goal, Manuela Ramalho and colleagues just published an interesting study on the microbial composition of one of the coolest ant groups – Polyrhachis, the spiny ants.

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Polyrhachis ant, with its microbial community. Photo: Melvyn Yeo

The Daily Ant hosts a weekly series, Philosophy Phridays, in which real philosophers share their thoughts at the intersection of ants and philosophy. This is the seventh contribution in the series, submitted by Dr. Miriam Schoenfield.


Ants in your pants

Ants make great real estate decisions, and this is explained partially by the fact that their decisions are made by a group, rather than an individual. In some species of ants, when a move must occur, individual worker ants scout out a variety of nest sites, and when they find one that they like, they begin to recruit other ants to their chosen site. The more ants visit a site, the better for that site, and once a certain threshold of ant visitors is reached, the issue is settled and the new nest becomes home. This group decision-making process is very effective and explains why ants do so well at choosing new nests.

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Turtle ants in their home. Photo: Alex Wild

The Daily Ant hosts a weekly series, Philosophy Phridays, in which real philosophers share their thoughts at the intersection of ants and philosophy. This is the sixth contribution in the series, submitted by Keshav Singh.


Do ants do things for reasons?

Ants are creatures that seem to do a lot of things. When you see an ant, it is likely either scurrying around in the midst of some task, or dead. One question we might ask when we see an ant doing something is: why is the ant doing that?

However, it is often not clear to the average observer exactly what task an ant is in the midst of; without knowing what an ant is doing, we clearly can’t explain why it is doing that. On the other hand, myrmecologists spend their lives figuring out what ants are doing and can offer plenty of explanations of why they do what they do.

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Myrmecologist Bonnie Blaimer collecting ants. Photo: Alex Wild