Sunday, December 24, 2006

The story of the ants

(Hainan 2006)

This story from my recent Hainan trip will require very keen observations from readers. Please prime your eyes to be more observant to get the most out of this story.

In the Hainan village, I noticed that a sticky paper-looking film would be used to trap houseflies. I was told that this sticky film has some frangrance that would attract the houseflies. By the time the houseflies land on the sticky film, they will be trapped. The film is so sticky that they cannot get themselves out of the sticky film. As for the rest of the fate of these houseflies, it can be induced that the flies will eventually die.

Notice the photo right below. Do you see dead houseflies lying on the white-coloured areas of the sticky film?

You may ask me why the sticky film looks "greyish-brown" at some areas. Actually, the sticky film appears to be a film that is completely white (or yellowish white). Those greyish-brown areas actually came into existence because of the work of the ants.

Please look more closely at the top left-hand corner of the photo, and you would notice a hole where the ants climbed out from. Look even closer, and you might see ants crawling near the edges of the sticky film. The edges of the film aren't sticky.

I asked about the phenomena that I had seen, and my uncle told me that the ants had, over the night, moved countless of sand and scattered these bits of sand onto the film. The purpose was so that the sticky-layer of the film could be covered with sand. When this happened, the ants could move freely on the surface of the sand, and not be trapped onto the sticky film.

Yet, the primary purpose of the ants was not to simply move about the area of the film. Their primary target were the dead flies on the sticky film. In order to remove those dead flies back to their nests, they had to first scatter the sand, before they can travel on the sand to reach the houseflies. Afterwhich, they have to work together as a team to carry the houseflies back to their nest.

When I heard of this story, I felt very impressed by the ants. This is probably a story of improvisation, diligence, teamwork and adaptation. I suppose there is much that we can learn from these ants.

There isn't any nice photo for this post, but I hope you can gain some insights from the story of these ants.

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