Army Ants

Anthony Palmieri
November 20, 1996
Contemporary Science Topics

A quote made by Lewis Thomas, "Ants are so much like human beings as to
be an embarrassment. They farm fungus, raise aphids as livestock, launch armies
into war, use chemical sprays to alarm and confuse enemies, and exchange
information ceaselessly. They do everything but watch television." I am going
to focus this report on the part of the quote, "..launch armies into war..,"
which sets a metaphor of ants and our armies in today\'s society. Ants have many
tactics, so to speak, that are similar to the way our armies have when going to
Ants have many different roles in their society. One of the main roles
that army ants or soldier ants have is that they forage in masses for food.
These masses of ants travel together and are able to overcome and capture other
social insects and large anthropoids, they may occasionally kill larger animals
but they do not eat them. As the need for food for the larvae increases, food
gathering raids become more intense.
The hunting raids made by ants are carried out by "armies" of thousands
of ants and set out from the bivouac in various directions. They form two or
three parties going out simultaneously in different directions for 100 yards or
more. In the U.S. army we attack countries in different areas to weaken the
force we are attacking. We send out thousands of troops in various directions
and try to surround the source of the location being attacked. For instance, if
there are several locations that needed to be attacked to weaken the enemy, like
their weapon storage or air force base, we send several sets of troops to attack
each individual location. This is very similar to the way army ants set out on a
hunting raid. They will send out thousands of ants at once in two or three
different directions.
When ants go out on their raids, a subgroup called Dorgline ants, walk
along margins of the trails as though protecting the smaller individuals in the
center. Dorglines are large soldiers that broaden the trail where it follows a
narrow ledge of bark and twigs or smooth the path where it crosses a rough plate
and they do this with their own body. They do this because footing for the large
ants is better along the margins than in the midst of dense mass of scurrying
When the army wants to invade or occupy a county, they usually will set
up aircraft carriers in the surrounding oceans and set up air forces in
neighboring countries. They do this to protect the inside forces of troops and
clears out a root for them to attack. They did this type of tactic during the
Persian Gulf War when we sent aircraft carriers into the Persian Gulf and the
Mediterranean and set up air forces and troops in the neighboring countries to
set up an attack. We later launched sea and air attacks to weaken the forces in
Iraq. We need these forces surrounding the area to launch missions to kill or
damage the powerful sources and then we send in the troops to tack care of the
rest, like taking hostages or capturing any of our hostages.
When the ants are sent from the bivouac, the leading ants have no odor
for others to follow. They often hesitate and hold back an advance but the
pressure built up from behind forces on side of the front line to bulge forward.
As this movement slows down because of the relief of pressure behind it, a new
bulge develops and extends forward in another part of the front. The result is a
series of advances of different parts of the front which suggests flanking
movements. A presence of prey will accelerate the advance but the capture will
slow down as the prey is dismembered. So in turn, insects that ants come upon
are attacked very quickly by the mass of ants rushing upon them. Their pieces
are brought back to the biouvac for food and other sources of energy.
As the United States Army is sent from the homeland or base, they are
very similar to the way army ants behave. The Army sends a front line, as do
ants, which is usually made up of tanks and armed troops. As they advance closer
to the site of the attack the front line slows down till a backup force of a
second and third line reaches the site. This is very similar to the ants\'
flanking motion. A presence