[Marxism] FW: Article on Ant's economic activity

Lil Joe joe_radical at earthlink.net
Tue Apr 26 11:42:14 MDT 2005

Proverbs, chapter 6

Compare with Revised Standard Version: Prov.06

6: Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise:
7: Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler,
8: Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.

Below is an article on omnivorous ants as rational animals working together
as in horticulture, tool making and coordinated hunting strategies. I have
joked about 'cockroach capitalists' as being unproductive parasitic
individualists and opportunists, that live in impoverished slums and off the
crumbs of poverty; but this article on ants is serious science.

Everyone knows that the 'worker ants' are cooperative in their domestic
nursery and other labor, and in outside gathering. It has been well known
that this is not just 'instinct', but is also a degree of reason, the use of
sight to navigate its way from the hearth into the field, plotting locations
against changes in their perception of the sky, sun, shadows and so on by
which is memorized the return path. This information is passed from one ant
to the next by communication, including touching and specific orders having
symbolic meanings and understandings -- language.

What hasn't been observed and scientifically studied by entomologist till
now, is that ants also farm and build traps for hunting, which behavior is
more akin to human making tools with which to hunt, which may be dismissed
by some as 'instinct', but these ants then coordinate rational assignments
in hunting strategy using the traps and a division of labor in the
assignments of trapping activity.

This is not the same as 'spider-web capitalism', either. The spider builds
his or her web instinctively, from its own bodily materials, and acts as an
individual in catching and eating its victims; I won't call it 'prey' as
there is no planned stalking strategy.Without the spider web the spiders
would die of starvation, an overspecialized species become extinct due to
changes in its ability to spread its sticky silk webs.

I am reminded of something I read in Marx's Capital, where he examined the
differences between human labor productivity and the 'labor' activity of
spiders (and bees) in comparison to human labor praxis:

"A spider conducts operations that resemble those of a weaver, and a bee
puts to shame many an architect in the construction of her cells. But what
distinguishes the worst architect from the best of bees is this, that the
architect raises his structure in imagination before he erects it in
reality. At the end of every labour-process, we get a result that already
existed in the imagination of the labourer at its commencement. He not only
effects a change of form in the material on which he works, but he also
realises a purpose of his own that gives the law to his modus operandi, and
to which he must subordinate his will. And this subordination is no mere
momentary act. Besides the exertion of the bodily organs, the process
demands that, during the whole operation, the workman's will be steadily in
consonance with his purpose. This means close attention."

According to the observation of a particular ant civilization in the article
(below) therein ants have a cooperative division of labor, both in
agriculture, construction of traps, and in the hunt. Their cooperative
economic activities in production and distribution is that every ant
contributes from each according to her learned specialty of ability, and
receives to each according to her need, is communistic.

Of course there are other types of ant civilizations, some of which are
based on war, conquests of the defeated, and subjecting them to slavery.

A biological, not a cultural trait, that is wide-spread among ants. Most ant
battles you see are actually slave raids. Ant slavery is unique because ant
slavery is usually between species, unlike human slavery.

Slave making ants Warfare and Slavery

  a.. Capture larvae and pupae of another species.
  b.. Carry them back to there own nest where:
    a.. They acquire the nest odor.
    b.. Develop into adults and act as workers for their new colony.
Some slave making ant species are incapable of surviving without slave
workers. They are no longer able to collect food or feed their immatures or

Warfare and Slavery
Embodies restless aggression, territorial conquest, and genocidal
annihilation of neighboring colonies. Ants war with their own and other
species and use a variety of tactics.

Imported Fire Ant, Solenopsis invicta vs. the Woodland Ant, Pheidole dentata

The fire ants have colonies hundred times larger than the woodland ant and
whenever they discover a woodland ant colony they completely destroy it. Yet
woodland ant colonies are abundant around fire ants. Whenever, a woodland
worker discovers a fire ant scout soldiers are so rapidly deployed that the
scout rarely makes it back to its colony. The soldiers do not sting or spray
poisons like many ants but rely on large mandibles to cut their opponents
into pieces. If despite this the woodland nest is discovered the soldiers
fall back to form a short perimeter around the nest which keeps the invading
fire ants at bay temporarily. The colony evacuates the nest and after the
battle and the fire ants have departed, they will return and reclaim their
nest. http://www.ndsu.nodak.edu/entomology/topics/societies.htm

Some five or six years ago I read a study on warrior ants that (If I recall,
were accidentally) moved from a territory heavily populated with conflicting
ant colonies at war. Although their military strategies and tactics were
well well organized their marshal culture was regarded as 'instinctive'
(similar to the way Klangons on Star Trek are presented as genetically
warriors). However, in their new territories, where there were space and
food enough accommodating all colonies not only ceased warring on one
another, but would see and ignore each other.

Communism cannot be based on scarcity, but abundance.
There are other ant civilizations based on animal husbandry, and/or
harvesting agriculture:

 "Many ants keep insect livestock in the order Homoptera. Commonly seen in
our area are ants tending aphids. The ants herd the aphids and protect them
from predators and parasites, in turn, the aphids reward the ants by
providing with droplets of sweet and nourishing honeydew. Besides aphids,
scale insects, other Homoptera, are farmed and some insects in other orders.
 "Other ants and some termites are gardeners. They collect plant material,
bring it into their nests, compost it, and use it to grow fungus which they
feed on. Leaf cutter and parasol ants are examples."  (Social Insects)

Lil Joe

The New Article:


      Nature Ants ambush prey from foxholes around traps
      Once insect is snared, other ants swarm in for the kill
      In this sequence of images, ants snare and devour a cricket.

By Robert Roy Britt

Updated: 10:02 p.m. ET April 20, 2005
A crafty ant species builds a trap dotted with foxholes for surprise attacks
on an insect. They stretch their victim out like a medieval criminal on a
rack as more ants swarm in for the kill.

Such incredible cooperation among ants has never before been described by

The ants, called Allomerus decemarticulatus, live in trees in the Amazon.
Their trap is made of natural plant hairs, some regurgitated goo, and a
binding fungus that the ants, amazingly, appear to farm. It allows the ants
to snag a meal, such as a large flying insect, that they otherwise could not

Here's how it works:

An insect lands on the trap, which to the unsuspecting eye looks like part
of the tree. Ants spring from dozens of holes in the gallery-like structure
and grab the bug's legs, stretching them out to immobilize the large prey.
Other worker ants swiftly arrive to sting the bug to death. Before long, the
insect is carved up and carted away.

The ambush is well orchestrated, as University of Toulouse researcher Jerome
Orivel and his colleagues describe in the April 21 issue of the journal

"Allomerus workers hide in the galleries with their heads just under the
holes, mandibles wide open, seemingly waiting for an insect to land," the
scientists write. "To kill the insect, they grasp its free legs, antennae or
wings, and move in and out of holes in opposite directions until the prey is
progressively stretched against the gallery and swarms of workers can sting

The ants then slide the prey across the gallery, again moving in and out of
holes, but this time in the same direction. "They move it slowly towards a
leaf pouch, where they carve it up."

The key to building the trap is a fungus that the ants cultivate. The fungus
grows on the trap and solidifies the structure. The researchers grew some
tree saplings as a test. If the ants were not present, no fungus grew, but
if the ants were there, the saplings developed the fungus.

Orivel marvelled over the trap-building.

"It is something manufactured by the ants from elements coming from the
plant and the environment," he said in an email interview. "Contrary to
social spiders which are also collectively building a trap (their web) from
the silk they produce, the trap of Allomerus is made from external

"To our knowledge, the collective creation of a trap as a predatory strategy
has not been described before in ants," the researchers conclude.

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