Polydomy. It’s a thing. It’s a thing where a single ant colony occupies completely separate nesting chambers rather than a single nest site. Polydomy, in creating a more distributed nest structure, has been theorized to increase foraging efficiency and enhance acquisition of a more diverse set of resources. Yet, despite the prevalence of hypotheses and theoretical work relating to polydomy, little work to date has experimentally tested the impact of polydomy on foraging efficiency.

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Temnothorax ants in their acorn 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 ninth contribution in the series, submitted by Dr. Richard Polt.


On Formiciform Virtue: Plato’s Ants

As he imagines scenarios for the afterlife—which he’ll be entering within a few hours—Socrates speculates that if there’s reincarnation, those who have practiced “social virtue” should come back as members of “a social and orderly species” in their next life. Yes: they may be reborn as ants (Plato, Phaedo 82b).

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