How Strong is the Ant?

Scientists in Krakow, Poland were amazed to see a single ant holding a dead bird in the air that weighed 500 times more than the ant did. That would be equivalent to a human who weighed 200 pounds holding 50 tons in the air. A number of questions are raised by such a discovery.

The first question might be why such a huge force would ever be needed by the ant whose colonies can number a half million individuals and cover six square miles. To feed such a colony, large prey is needed and transporting that prey efficiently requires force. We do not deliver a load of gravel a piece at a time, and neither does the ant.

The second question might be how do they do it? The secret turns out to be in the ant's feet where electron microscopes reveal powerful suction pads called arolia between the ant's tarsal claws. Other ants have arolia, but the adhesive characteristics of the weaver ant's arolia give it the unique ability to support huge loads.

Ants have many lessons to teach us. The power of unity and cooperation, the importance of the wise use of resources, the value of keeping busy and not wasting time, and the incredible wisdom built into the design of all living things. "Go to the ant, thou sluggard; condider her ways, and be wise:" (Proverb 6:6).

References: Discover, November, 1996, page 30; National Geographic, December, 1996.

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