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Salute, Ants

From mid-childhood to adolescence, ants and their social network, fascinated me beyond words. I am sure that many others of my acquaintance were also curious about ants, but they were not vocal, nor willing to share my delight in observing them scamper, rub noses, appear from nowhere, disappear somewhere.

I remember that some teachers or scientists mentioned that ants were superior in their skills for organisation and survival than human beings, who seemed then to be the pinnacle of evolution.

I also learned with first disbelief and then fascination about the divisions within the ant colonies: workers, some procurers of food, others builders, nurses of infants; others who were soldiers, defenders of their territory, and, most important of all, protectors of the queen and her eggs, which seemed to be produced in hundreds of thousands.

Later, I learned that the queen and the drones actually had wings, which they shed following their intercourse in the air, and then settled to form for each queen a new colony -- and who selected them? -- the army of workers, soldiers, midwives, drones.

They seemed omniscient and omnipotent, and yet so frail, fragile. Crushable, but not before I spent time staring at them, absorbed in them: red, black, or any other hue. Can you believe, the red ones actually bit? It was something black ants never did. What gall! Two ants would cross each other, rubbing noses and passing on quickly to carry out their business. I wondered, what did they exchange in that moment of contact? What information, what warnings?

Sometime in the 1960s through my fascination with cinema, and scholarship on that subject, the name of Saul Bass appeared on the screen of my mind. Bass was mostly known for revolutionising the titles of many films, some of which were more famous for his titles than because of the films themselves. Then in 1974 he made a science-fiction film called Phase IV, in which humans battle ants, who look as though they are going to be the victors. Those who have shared my fascination with ants and their social organisation, may be interested in seeing the trailer for Phase IV : http://bit.ly/1EfIM6D

Any one of you who has come this far in reading my salute is most sincerely welcome to exchange, share, or join me in enhancing our understanding of ants.

ramesh gandhi

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