I wonder if ants have ethics

antsI wonder if ants
have ethics

Have you ever sat on the patio and watched ants moving the remains of a larger insect or other object from one place to another?  It’s absolutely amazing.  It’s a known fact that ants — like bees and other creatures — are extremely communal, just like us humans.  They’re also extremely resourceful.

One day I was on my back porch doing some work on my laptop when I happened to look down and see a trail of black ants making their way across the edge of the pavement.  One of them was transporting something (I never did quite figure out exactly what it was) about ten times bigger than he was, in such a way that it was obvious he couldn’t see where he was going.  Other ants (one or two at a time) would alternate in helping him guide the large object and then follow along to watch their fellow ant’s progress.  They’d work with him for two or three inches or so, then move out of the way and let another one or two jump in and help, and then jump back in and help a little more.

While watching this, I notice other ants simply doing the “rubber-necking” routine — you know….you’re driving down the street and see a fender bender or a car stopped along the side of the road in need of some help, and you simply can’t resist slowing down to check things out.  This was exactly what was happening with these ants, as well, in addition to the actual teamwork that was taking place.  Every few ants or so would slow their pace and meander a bit closer to the scene just enough to see what was going on, and then scurry on their way.  It was fascinating.

rubber neckingThis seemed to be just like a lot of people, curious but not wanting to get involved or in too much of a hurry to stop and help.  I wondered . . . did they recognize the ant trying to carry the load and realized it was someone from the opposing team?  What about the ones who DID stop and help, if only for a few seconds?  Were they family or neighbors or members of the same ant lodge?  Just nice guys who saw a fellow ant in need?  Who knows?

It reminded me of a situation a couple of years ago when my car just totally stalled at a major intersection about half a mile from where I was headed to a friend’s for dinner.  The car just died with no warning.  It was like someone had just reached under the hood and unplugged everything.  I had no power steering, no power brakes, no instrument panel lights . . . nothing.  Just as I was getting out of the car to see if I could figure out what was going on and the light was getting ready to turn green, two guys (one in the truck behind me and one in an SUV in the next lane over) jumped out of their vehicles and helped me push my car across the huge intersection and into a parking lot out of harm’s way.  I didn’t know these guys from Adam, had never seen them before, and neither of them hung around long enough for me to do anything more than barely get out a quick “thank you”.  They simply disappeared back to their vehicles over on the other side of the intersection, and that was the last I ever saw them, like angels out of nowhere.

I wonder what makes some of us stop and help, while others simply walk or drive on by with nothing more than a quick glance of curiosity?  I wonder why sometimes I stop and make an effort and other times hurry on to my own destination?  Does the mood just strike me and the next time not?  Am I too lazy? Too unconcerned?  In too much of a hurry?  Do I figure there’s no return in it for me?  Do I look at the person and decide at first glance that I like or not like that person in need?  What?

I wonder . . . do ants have more in common with us than we might imagine?







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