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    14. Go To The Ant

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    Chapter 15
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    In the market-place at Santa Fé, in Mexico, peasant women from the
    neighbouring villages bring in for sale trayfuls of living ants, each
    about as big and round as a large white currant, and each entirely
    filled with honey or grape sugar, much appreciated by the ingenuous
    Mexican youth as an excellent substitute for Everton toffee. The method
    of eating them would hardly command the approbation of the Society for
    the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. It is simple and primitive, but
    decidedly not humane. Ingenuous youth holds the ant by its head and
    shoulders, sucks out the honey with which the back part is absurdly
    distended, and throws away the empty body as a thing with which it has
    now no further sympathy. Maturer age buys the ants by the quart, presses
    out the honey through a muslin strainer, and manufactures it into a very
    sweet intoxicating drink, something like shandygaff, as I am credibly
    informed by bold persons who have ventured to experiment upon it, taken

    The curious insect which thus serves as an animated sweetmeat for the
    Mexican children is the honey-ant of the Garden of the Gods; and it
    affords a beautiful example of Mandeville's charming paradox that
    personal vices are public benefits--_vitia privata humana commoda_. The
    honey-ant is a greedy individual who has nevertheless nobly devoted
    himself for the good of the community by converting himself into a
    living honey-jar, from which all the other ants in his own nest may help
    themselves freely from time to time, as occasion demands. The tribe to
    which he belongs lives underground, in a dome-roofed vault, and only one
    particular caste among the workers, known as rotunds from their
    expansive girth, is told off for this special duty of storing honey
    within their own bodies. Clinging to the top of their nest, with their
    round, transparent abdomens hanging down loosely, mere globules of skin
    enclosing the pale amber-coloured honey, these Daniel Lamberts of the
    insect race look for all the world like clusters of the little American
    Delaware grapes, with an ant's legs and head stuck awkwardly on to the
    end instead of a stalk. They have, in fact, realised in everyday life
    the awful fate of Mr. Gilbert's discontented sugar-broker, who laid on
    flesh and 'adipose deposit' until he became converted at last into a
    perfect rolling ball of globular humanity.

    The manners of the honey-ant race are very simple. Most of the members
    of each community are active and roving in their dispositions, and show
    no tendency to undue distension of the nether extremities. They go out
    at night and collect nectar or honey-dew from the gall-insects on
    oak-trees; for the gall-insect, like love in the old Latin saw, is
    fruitful both in sweets and bitters, _melle et felle_. This nectar they
    then carry home, and give it to the rotunds or honey-bearers, who
    swallow it and store it in their round abdomen until they can hold no
    more, having stretched their skins literally to the very point of
    bursting. They pass their time, like the Fat Boy in 'Pickwick,' chiefly
    in sleeping, but they cling upside down meanwhile to the roof of their
    residence. When the workers in turn require a meal, they go up to the
    nearest honey-bearer and stroke her gently with their antennæ. The
    honey-bearer thereupon throws up her head and regurgitates a large drop
    of the amber liquid. ('Regurgitates' is a good word which I borrow from
    Dr. McCook, of Philadelphia, the great authority upon honey-ants; and it
    saves an immense deal of trouble in looking about for a respectable
    periphrasis.) The workers feed upon the drops thus exuded, two or three
    at once often standing around the living honey-jar, and lapping nectar
    together from the lips of their devoted comrade. This may seem at first
    sight rather an unpleasant practice on the part of the ants; but after
    all, how does it really differ from our own habit of eating honey which
    has been treated in very much the same unsophisticated manner by the
    domestic bee?

    Worse things than these, however, Dr. McCook records to the discredit of
    the Colorado honey-ant. When he was opening some nests in the Garden of
    the Gods, he happened accidentally to knock down some of the rotunds,
    which straightway burst asunder in the middle, and scattered their store
    of honey on the floor of the nest. At once the other ants, tempted away
    from their instinctive task of carrying off the cocoons and young grubs,
    clustered around their unfortunate companion, like street boys around a
    broken molasses barrel, and, instead of forming themselves forthwith
    into a volunteer ambulance company, proceeded immediately to lap up the
    honey from their dying brother. On the other hand it must be said, to
    the credit of the race, that (unlike the members of Arctic expeditions)
    they never desecrate the remains of the dead. When a honey-bearer dies
    at his post, a victim to his zeal for the common good, the workers
    carefully remove his cold corpse from the roof where it still clings,
    clip off the head and shoulders from the distended abdomen, and convey
    their deceased brother piecemeal, in two detachments, to the formican
    cemetery, undisturbed. If they chose, they might only bury the front
    half of their late relation, while they retained his remaining moiety
    as an available honey-bag: but from this cannibal proceeding
    ant-etiquette recoils in decent horror; and the amber globes are 'pulled
    up galleries, rolled along rooms, and bowled into the graveyard, along
    with the juiceless heads, legs, and other members.' Such fraternal
    conduct would be very creditable to the worker honey-ants, were it not
    for a horrid doubt insinuated by Dr. McCook that perhaps the insects
    don't know they could get at the honey by breaking up the body of their
    lamented relative. If so, their apparent disregard of utilitarian
    considerations may really be due not to their sentimentality but to
    their hopeless stupidity.

    The reason why the ants have taken thus to storing honey in the living
    bodies of their own fellows is easy enough to understand. They want to
    lay up for the future like prudent insects that they are; but they can't
    make wax, as the bees do, and they have not yet evolved the purely human
    art of pottery. Consequently--happy thought--why not tell off some of
    our number to act as jars on behalf of the others? Some of the community
    work by going out and gathering honey; they also serve who only stand
    and wait--who receive it from the workers, and keep it stored up in
    their own capacious indiarubber maws till further notice. So obvious is
    this plan for converting ants into animated honey-jars, that several
    different kinds of ants in different parts of the world, belonging to
    the most widely distinct families, have independently hit upon the very
    self-same device. Besides the Mexican species, there is a totally
    different Australian honey-ant, and another equally separate in Borneo
    and Singapore. This last kind does not store the honey in the hind part
    of the body technically known as the abdomen, but in the middle division
    which naturalists call the thorax, where it forms a transparent
    bladder-like swelling, and makes the creature look as though it were
    suffering with an acute attack of dropsy. In any case, the life of a
    honey-bearer must be singularly uneventful, not to say dull and
    monotonous; but no doubt any small inconvenience in this respect must be
    more than compensated for by the glorious consciousness that one is
    sacrificing one's own personal comfort for the common good of universal
    anthood. Perhaps, however, the ants have not yet reached the Positivist
    stage, and may be totally ignorant of the enthusiasm of formicity.

    Equally curious are the habits and manners of the harvesting ants, the
    species which Solomon seems to have had specially in view when he
    advised his hearers to go to the ant--a piece of advice which I have
    also adopted as the title of the present article, though I by no means
    intend thereby to insinuate that the readers of this volume ought
    properly to be classed as sluggards. These industrious little creatures
    abound in India: they are so small that it takes eight or ten of them to
    carry a single grain of wheat or barley; and yet they will patiently
    drag along their big burden for five hundred or a thousand yards to the
    door of their formicary. To prevent the grain from germinating, they
    bite off the embryo root--a piece of animal intelligence outdone by
    another species of ant, which actually allows the process of budding to
    begin, so as to produce sugar, as in malting. After the last
    thunderstorms of the monsoon the little proprietors bring up all the
    grain from their granaries to dry in the tropical sunshine. The quantity
    of grain stored up by the harvesting ants is often so large that the
    hair-splitting Jewish casuists of the Mishna have seriously discussed
    the question whether it belongs to the landowner or may lawfully be
    appropriated by the gleaners. 'They do not appear,' says Sir John
    Lubbock, 'to have considered the rights of the ants.' Indeed our duty
    towards insects is a question which seems hitherto to have escaped the
    notice of all moral philosophers. Even Mr. Herbert Spencer, the prophet
    of individualism, has never taken exception to our gross disregard of
    the proprietary rights of bees in their honey, or of silkworms in their
    cocoons. There are signs, however, that the obtuse human conscience is
    awakening in this respect; for when Dr. Loew suggested to bee-keepers
    the desirability of testing the commercial value of honey-ants, as
    rivals to the bee, Dr. McCook replied that 'the sentiment against the
    use of honey thus taken from living insects, which is worthy of all
    respect, would not be easily overcome.'

    There are no harvesting ants in Northern Europe, though they extend as
    far as Syria, Italy, and the Riviera, in which latter station I have
    often observed them busily working. What most careless observers take
    for grain in the nests of English ants are of course really the cocoons
    of the pupæ. For many years, therefore, entomologists were under the
    impression that Solomon had fallen into this popular error, and that
    when he described the ant as 'gathering her food in the harvest' and
    'preparing her meat in the summer,' he was speaking rather as a poet
    than as a strict naturalist. Later observations, however, have
    vindicated the general accuracy of the much-married king by showing that
    true harvesting ants do actually occur in Syria, and that they lay by
    stores for the winter in the very way stated by that early entomologist,
    whose knowledge of 'creeping things' is specially enumerated in the long
    list of his universal accomplishments.

    Dr. Lincecum of Texan fame has even improved upon Solomon by his
    discovery of those still more interesting and curious creatures, the
    agricultural ants of Texas. America is essentially a farming country,
    and the agricultural ants are born farmers. They make regular clearings
    around their nests, and on these clearings they allow nothing to grow
    except a particular kind of grain, known as ant-rice. Dr. Lincecum
    maintains that the tiny farmers actually sow and cultivate the ant-rice.
    Dr. McCook, on the other hand, is of opinion that the rice sows itself,
    and that the insects' part is limited to preventing any other plants or
    weeds from encroaching on the appropriated area. In any case, be they
    squatters or planters, it is certain that the rice, when ripe, is duly
    harvested, and that it is, to say the least, encouraged by the ants, to
    the exclusion of all other competitors. 'After the maturing and
    harvesting of the seed,' says Dr. Lincecum, 'the dry stubble is cut away
    and removed from the pavement, which is thus left fallow until the
    ensuing autumn, when the same species of grass, and in the same circle,
    appears again, and receives the same agricultural care as did the
    previous crop.' Sir John Lubbock, indeed, goes so far as to say that the
    three stages of human progress--the hunter, the herdsman, and the
    agriculturist--are all to be found among various species of existing

    The Saüba ants of tropical America carry their agricultural operations a
    step further. Dwelling in underground nests, they sally forth upon the
    trees, and cut out of the leaves large round pieces, about as big as a
    shilling. These pieces they drop upon the ground, where another
    detachment is in waiting to convey them to the galleries of the nest.
    There they store enormous quantities of these round pieces, which they
    allow to decay in the dark, so as to form a sort of miniature mushroom
    bed. On the mouldering vegetable heap they have thus piled up, they
    induce a fungus to grow, and with this fungus they feed their young
    grubs during their helpless infancy. Mr. Belt, the 'Naturalist in
    Nicaragua,' found that native trees suffered far less from their
    depredations than imported ones. The ants hardly touched the local
    forests, but they stripped young plantations of orange, coffee, and
    mango trees stark naked. He ingeniously accounts for this curious fact
    by supposing that an internecine struggle has long been going on in the
    countries inhabited by the Saübas between the ants and the forest trees.
    Those trees that best resisted the ants, owing either to some unpleasant
    taste or to hardness of foliage, have in the long run survived
    destruction; but those which were suited for the purpose of the ants
    have been reduced to nonentity, while the ants in turn were getting
    slowly adapted to attack other trees. In this way almost all the native
    trees have at last acquired some special means of protection against the
    ravages of the leaf-cutters; so that they immediately fall upon all
    imported and unprotected kinds as their natural prey. This ingenious and
    wholly satisfactory explanation must of course go far to console the
    Brazilian planters for the frequent loss of their orange and coffee

    Mr. Alfred Russel Wallace, the co-discoverer of the Darwinian theory
    (whose honours he waived with rare generosity in favour of the older and
    more distinguished naturalist), tells a curious story about the
    predatory habits of these same Saübas. On one occasion, when he was
    wandering about in search of specimens on the Rio Negro, he bought a
    peck of rice, which was tied up, Indian fashion, in the local bandanna
    of the happy plantation slave. At night he left his rice incautiously on
    the bench of the hut where he was sleeping; and next morning the Saübas
    had riddled the handkerchief like a sieve, and carried away a gallon of
    the grain for their own felonious purposes. The underground galleries
    which they dig can often be traced for hundreds of yards; and Mr. Hamlet
    Clarke even asserts that in one case they have tunnelled under the bed
    of a river where it is a quarter of a mile wide. This beats Brunel on
    his own ground into the proverbial cocked hat, both for depth and

    Within doors, in the tropics, ants are apt to put themselves obtrusively
    forward in a manner little gratifying to any except the enthusiastically
    entomological mind. The winged females, after their marriage flight,
    have a disagreeable habit of flying in at the open doors and windows at
    lunch time, settling upon the table like the Harpies in the Æneid, and
    then quietly shuffling off their wings one at a time, by holding them
    down against the table-cloth with one leg, and running away vigorously
    with the five others. As soon as they have thus disembarrassed
    themselves of their superfluous members, they proceed to run about over
    the lunch as if the house belonged to them, and to make a series of
    experiments upon the edible qualities of the different dishes. One
    doesn't so much mind their philosophical inquiries into the nature of
    the bread or even the meat; but when they come to drowning themselves by
    dozens, in the pursuit of knowledge, in the soup and sherry, one feels
    bound to protest energetically against the spirit of martyrdom by which
    they are too profoundly animated. That is one of the slight drawbacks of
    the realms of perpetual summer; in the poets you see only one side of
    the picture--the palms, the orchids, the humming-birds, the great
    trailing lianas: in practical life you see the reverse side--the
    thermometer at 98°, the tepid drinking-water, the prickly heat, the
    perpetual languor, the endless shoals of aggressive insects. A lady of
    my acquaintance, indeed, made a valuable entomological collection in her
    own dining-room, by the simple process of consigning to pill-boxes all
    the moths and flies and beetles that settled upon the mangoes and
    star-apples in the course of dessert.

    Another objectionable habit of the tropical ants, viewed practically,
    is their total disregard of vested interests in the case of house
    property. Like Mr. George and his communistic friends, they disbelieve
    entirely in the principle of private rights in real estate. They will
    eat their way through the beams of your house till there is only a
    slender core of solid wood left to support the entire burden. I have
    taken down a rafter in my own house in Jamaica, originally 18 inches
    thick each way, with a sound circular centre of no more than 6 inches in
    diameter, upon which all the weight necessarily fell. With the material
    extracted from the wooden beams they proceed to add insult to injury by
    building long covered galleries right across the ceiling of your
    drawing-room. As may be easily imagined, these galleries do not tend to
    improve the appearance of the ceiling; and it becomes necessary to form
    a Liberty and Property Defence League for the protection of one's
    personal interests against the insect enemy. I have no objection to ants
    building galleries on their own freehold, or even to their nationalising
    the land in their native forests; but I do object strongly to their
    unwarrantable intrusion upon the domain of private life. Expostulation
    and active warfare, however, are equally useless. The carpenter-ant has
    no moral sense, and is not amenable either to kindness or blows. On one
    occasion, when a body of these intrusive creatures had constructed an
    absurdly conspicuous brown gallery straight across the ceiling of my
    drawing-room, I determined to declare open war against them, and,
    getting my black servant to bring in the steps and a mop, I proceeded to
    demolish the entire gallery just after breakfast. It was about 20 feet
    long, as well as I can remember, and perhaps an inch in diameter. At one
    o'clock I returned to lunch. My black servant pointed, with a broad grin
    on his intelligent features, to the wooden ceiling. I looked up; in
    those three hours the carpenter-ants had reconstructed the entire
    gallery, and were doubtless mocking me at their ease, with their
    uplifted antennæ, under that safe shelter. I retired at once from the
    unequal contest. It was clearly impossible to go on knocking down a
    fresh gallery every three hours of the day or night throughout a whole

    Ants, says Mr. Wallace, without one touch of satire, 'force themselves
    upon the attention of everyone who visits the tropics.' They do, indeed,
    and that most pungently; if by no other method, at least by the simple
    and effectual one of stinging. The majority of ants in every nest are of
    course neuters, or workers, that is to say, strictly speaking,
    undeveloped females, incapable of laying eggs. But they still retain the
    ovipositor, which is converted into a sting, and supplied with a
    poisonous liquid to eject afterwards into the wound. So admirably
    adapted to its purpose is this beautiful provision of nature, that some
    tropical ants can sting with such violence as to make your leg swell and
    confine you for some days to your room; while cases have even been known
    in which the person attacked has fainted with pain, or had a serious
    attack of fever in consequence. It is not every kind of ant, however,
    that can sting; a great many can only bite with their little hard horny
    jaws, and then eject a drop of formic poison afterwards into the hole
    caused by the bite. The distinction is a delicate physiological one, not
    much appreciated by the victims of either mode of attack. The perfect
    females can also sting, but not, of course, the males, who are poor,
    wretched, useless creatures, only good as husbands for the community,
    and dying off as soon as they have performed their part in the
    world--another beautiful provision, which saves the workers the trouble
    of killing them off, as bees do with drones after the marriage flight of
    the queen bee.

    The blind driver-ants of West Africa are among the very few species
    that render any service to man, and that, of course, only incidentally.
    Unlike most other members of their class, the driver-ants have no
    settled place of residence; they are vagabonds and wanderers upon the
    face of the earth, formican tramps, blind beggars, who lead a gipsy
    existence, and keep perpetually upon the move, smelling their way
    cautiously from one camping-place to another. They march by night, or on
    cloudy days, like wise tropical strategists, and never expose themselves
    to the heat of the day in broad sunshine, as though they were no better
    than the mere numbered British Tommy Atkins at Coomassie or in the
    Soudan. They move in vast armies across country, driving everything
    before them as they go; for they belong to the stinging division, and
    are very voracious in their personal habits. Not only do they eat up the
    insects in their line of march, but they fall even upon larger creatures
    and upon big snakes, which they attack first in the eyes, the most
    vulnerable portion. When they reach a negro village the inhabitants turn
    out _en masse_, and run away, exactly as if the visitors were English
    explorers or brave Marines, bent upon retaliating for the theft of a
    knife by nobly burning down King Tom's town or King Jumbo's capital.
    Then the negroes wait in the jungle till the little black army has
    passed on, after clearing out the huts by the way of everything eatable.
    When they return they find their calabashes and saucepans licked clean,
    but they also find every rat, mouse, lizard, cockroach, gecko, and
    beetle completely cleared out from the whole village. Most of them have
    cut and run at the first approach of the drivers; of the remainder, a
    few blanched and neatly-picked skeletons alone remain to tell the tale.

    As I wish to be considered a veracious historian, I will not retail the
    further strange stories that still find their way into books of natural
    history about the manners and habits of these blind marauders. They
    cross rivers, the West African gossips declare, by a number of devoted
    individuals flinging themselves first into the water as a living bridge,
    like so many six-legged Marcus Curtiuses, while over their drowning
    bodies the heedless remainder march in safety to the other side. If the
    story is not true, it is at least well invented; for the
    ant-commonwealth everywhere carries to the extremest pitch the old Roman
    doctrine of the absolute subjection of the individual to the State. So
    exactly is this the case that in some species there are a few large,
    overgrown, lazy ants in each nest, which do no work themselves, but
    accompany the workers on their expeditions; and the sole use of these
    idle mouths seems to be to attract the attention of birds and other
    enemies, and so distract it from the useful workers, the mainstay of the
    entire community. It is almost as though an army, marching against a
    tribe of cannibals, were to place itself in the centre of a hollow
    square formed of all the fattest people in the country, whose fine
    condition and fitness for killing might immediately engross the
    attention of the hungry enemy. Ants, in fact, have, for the most part,
    already reached the goal set before us as a delightful one by most
    current schools of socialist philosophers, in which the individual is
    absolutely sacrificed in every way to the needs of the community.

    The most absurdly human, however, among all the tricks and habits of
    ants are their well known cattle-farming and slaveholding instincts.
    Everybody has heard, of course, how they keep the common rose-blight as
    milch cows, and suck from them the sweet honey-dew. But everybody,
    probably, does not yet know the large number of insects which they herd
    in one form or another as domesticated animals. Man has, at most, some
    twenty or thirty such, including cows, sheep, horses, donkeys, camels,
    llamas, alpacas, reindeer, dogs, cats, canaries, pigs, fowl, ducks,
    geese, turkeys, and silkworms. But ants have hundreds and hundreds, some
    of them kept obviously for purposes of food; others apparently as pets;
    and yet others again, as has been plausibly suggested, by reason of
    superstition or as objects of worship. There is a curious blind beetle
    which inhabits ants' nests, and is so absolutely dependent upon its
    hosts for support that it has even lost the power of feeding itself. It
    never quits the nest, but the ants bring it in food and supply it by
    putting the nourishment actually into its mouth. But the beetle, in
    return, seems to secrete a sweet liquid (or it may even be a stimulant
    like beer, or a narcotic like tobacco) in a tuft of hairs near the
    bottom of the hard wing-cases, and the ants often lick this tuft with
    every appearance of satisfaction and enjoyment. In this case, and in
    many others, there can be no doubt that the insects are kept for the
    sake of food or some other advantage yielded by them.

    But there are other instances of insects which haunt ants' nests, which
    it is far harder to account for on any hypothesis save that of
    superstitious veneration. There is a little weevil that runs about by
    hundreds in the galleries of English ants, in and out among the free
    citizens, making itself quite at home in their streets and public
    places, but as little noticed by the ants themselves as dogs are in our
    own cities. Then, again, there is a white woodlouse, something like the
    common little armadillo, but blind from having lived so long
    underground, which walks up and down the lanes and alleys of antdom,
    without ever holding any communication of any sort with its hosts and
    neighbours. In neither case has Sir John Lubbock ever seen an ant take
    the slightest notice of the presence of these strange fellow-lodgers.
    'One might almost imagine,' he says, 'that they had the cap of
    invisibility.' Yet it is quite clear that the ants deliberately sanction
    the residence of the weevils and woodlice in their nests, for any
    unauthorised intruder would immediately be set upon and massacred

    Sir John Lubbock suggests that they may perhaps be tolerated as
    scavengers: or, again, it is possible that they may prey upon the eggs
    or larvæ of some of the parasites to whose attacks the ants are subject.
    In the first case, their use would be similar to that of the wild dogs
    in Constantinople or the common black John-crow vultures in tropical
    America: in the second case, they would be about equivalent to our own
    cats or to the hedgehog often put in farmhouse kitchens to keep down

    The crowning glory of owning slaves, which many philosophic Americans
    (before the war) showed to be the highest and noblest function of the
    most advanced humanity, has been attained by more than one variety of
    anthood. Our great English horse-ant is a moderate slaveholder; but the
    big red ant of Southern Europe carries the domestic institution many
    steps further. It makes regular slave-raids upon the nests of the small
    brown ants, and carries off the young in their pupa condition. By-and-by
    the brown ants hatch out in the strange nest, and never having known any
    other life except that of slavery, accommodate themselves to it readily
    enough. The red ant, however, is still only an occasional slaveowner; if
    necessary, he can get along by himself, without the aid of his little
    brown servants. Indeed, there are free states and slave states of red
    ants side by side with one another, as of old in Maryland and
    Pennsylvania: in the first, the red ants do their work themselves, like
    mere vulgar Ohio farmers; in the second, they get their work done for
    them by their industrious little brown servants, like the aristocratic
    first families of Virginia before the earthquake of emancipation.

    But there are other degraded ants, whose life-history may be humbly
    presented to the consideration of the Anti-Slavery Society, as speaking
    more eloquently than any other known fact for the demoralising effect of
    slaveowning upon the slaveholders themselves. The Swiss rufescent ant is
    a species so long habituated to rely entirely upon the services of
    slaves that it is no longer able to manage its own affairs when deprived
    by man of its hereditary bondsmen. It has lost entirely the art of
    constructing a nest; it can no longer tend its own young, whom it leaves
    entirely to the care of negro nurses; and its bodily structure even has
    changed, for the jaws have lost their teeth, and have been converted
    into mere nippers, useful only as weapons of war. The rufescent ant, in
    fact, is a purely military caste, which has devoted itself entirely to
    the pursuit of arms, leaving every other form of activity to its slaves
    and dependents. Officers of the old school will be glad to learn that
    this military insect is dressed, if not in scarlet, at any rate in very
    decent red, and that it refuses to be bothered in any way with questions
    of transport or commissariat. If the community changes its nest, the
    masters are carried on the backs of their slaves to the new position,
    and the black ants have to undertake the entire duty of foraging and
    bringing in stores of supply for their gentlemanly proprietors. Only
    when war is to be made upon neighbouring nests does the thin red line
    form itself into long file for active service. Nothing could be more
    perfectly aristocratic than the views of life entertained and acted upon
    by these distinguished slaveholders.

    On the other hand, the picture has its reverse side, exhibiting clearly
    the weak points of the slaveholding system. The rufescent ant has lost
    even the very power of feeding itself. So completely dependent is each
    upon his little black valet for daily bread, that he cannot so much as
    help himself to the food that is set before him. Hüber put a few
    slaveholders into a box with some of their own larvæ and pupæ, and a
    supply of honey, in order to see what they would do with them. Appalled
    at the novelty of the situation, the slaveholders seemed to come to the
    conclusion that something must be done; so they began carrying the larvæ
    about aimlessly in their mouths, and rushing up and down in search of
    the servants. After a while, however, they gave it up and came to the
    conclusion that life under such circumstances was clearly intolerable.
    They never touched the honey, but resigned themselves to their fate like
    officers and gentlemen. In less than two days, half of them had died of
    hunger, rather than taste a dinner which was not supplied to them by a
    properly constituted footman. Admiring their heroism or pitying their
    incapacity, Hüber at last gave them just one slave between them all. The
    plucky little negro, nothing daunted by the gravity of the situation,
    set to work at once, dug a small nest, gathered together the larvæ,
    helped several pupæ out of the cocoon, and saved the lives of the
    surviving slaveowners. Other naturalists have tried similar experiments,
    and always with the same result. The slaveowners will starve in the
    midst of plenty rather than feed themselves without attendance. Either
    they cannot or will not put the food into their own mouths with their
    own mandibles.

    There are yet other ants, such as the workerless _Anergates_, in which
    the degradation of slaveholding has gone yet further. These wretched
    creatures are the formican representatives of those Oriental despots who
    are no longer even warlike, but are sunk in sloth and luxury, and pass
    their lives in eating bang or smoking opium. Once upon a time, Sir John
    Lubbock thinks, the ancestors of _Anergates_ were marauding
    slaveowners, who attacked and made serfs of other ants. But gradually
    they lost not only their arts but even their military prowess, and were
    reduced to making war by stealth instead of openly carrying off their
    slaves in fair battle. It seems probable that they now creep into a nest
    of the far more powerful slave ants, poison or assassinate the queen,
    and establish themselves by sheer usurpation in the queenless nest.
    'Gradually,' says Sir John Lubbock, 'even their bodily force dwindled
    away under the enervating influence to which they had subjected
    themselves, until they sank to their present degraded condition--weak in
    body and mind, few in numbers, and apparently nearly extinct, the
    miserable representatives of far superior ancestors maintaining a
    precarious existence as contemptible parasites of their former slaves.'
    One may observe in passing that these wretched do-nothings cannot have
    been the ants which Solomon commended to the favourable consideration of
    the sluggard; though it is curious that the text was never pressed into
    the service of defence for the peculiar institution by the advocates of
    slavery in the South, who were always most anxious to prove the
    righteousness of their cause by most sure and certain warranty of Holy
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