Fire Ants Build Their Own Versions Of The Eiffel Tower
Fire ants are tiny insects, so when their homes become flooded with water they go into panic mode. It has been mentioned before that many ants are capable of creating rafts made from the bodies of workers and soldiers. These rafts then transport the most important members of the ant colony to dry areas. However, fire ants can avoid being consumed by large amounts of water by building structures that reach beyond the water’s surface. And, much like ant-rafts, these ants use their own bodies as building materials.
One interesting aspect about these particularly tall ant structures is how similar they are to the well known Eiffel tower. For example, different structures have elements that can handle different weights, and all structures differ in this respect. However, the tall structures that fire ants build are similar to the Eiffel tower’s design in that they each bear a similar amount of weight at key structural points.
Tall fire-ant structures are fascinating to researchers due to the sheer amount of ants, or building blocks, necessary to create an upright structure. So do fire ants possess some way of coordinating the manner in which their structures are built? Well, given the number of fire ants serving at key structural support points, one would think that the answer to the above question would be “yes, ants must have a collective blueprint in mind”.
According to Craig Tovey, an engineering professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology, fire ants do not have a collective “hive” mind; instead each ant in a colony acts in accordance with its own impulses. Also, there is no queen ant issuing orders to the worker and soldier ants concerning how their structures should be built. Further research has revealed that ants simply climb atop one another until their structures collapse, but a surprising amount of structural integrity is maintained for long periods of time.
It looks like these ants build their structures by resorting to trial and error, and by following simple rules. For example, ants that have other ants perched atop of them do not move. Secondly, ants that are perched atop of other ants, but with no other ants on top of them, can move in a manner that facilitates the building process. Also, if an opening should appear within an ant structure, such an opening would be filled by other ants in order to decrease the chances of collapse. By following these rules, these ant structures can become surprisingly tall.
Have you ever covered an anthill only to find alternate anthills appear in the same area later on?