"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Ants – with their clever farming methods and efficient navigation techniques – can encourage solutions to some human problems.

King Solomon could have gotten a few of his famous wisdom from an unlikely source: ants.

According to 1 Jewish mythology, Solomon interacted with a cunning ant queen who challenged his pride, which greatly influenced the king of Israel. In the Bible book of Proverbs (6:6-8), Solomon shared this recommendation along with his son: “Look on the lazy ant, consider his ways and grow to be sensible. Having no leader, overseer, or ruler, she provides her flesh in summer, and gathers her food in harvest.”

Although I can't claim any family connection to King Solomon, let alone his name, I even have long admired the wisdom of ants and have spent over 20 years. To study their ecology, evolution and behavior. While the concept that ants can offer lessons for humans has actually been around for a while, what scientists have learned about their biology could have recent wisdom to achieve.

Ants have developed highly complex social organizations.

Lessons from ant farming

As a researcher, I'm particularly intrigued. Fungus growing ants, a bunch of 248 species that cultivate fungi as their foremost food source. They include 79 species. Leaf cutter ant, who grow their mushroom gardens with freshly cut leaves that they carry to their enormous underground nests. I even have excavated a whole bunch of leafcutter ant nests from Texas to Argentina as a part of a scientific effort to know how these ants adapted to their fungal crops.

Like human farmers, each fungus-growing ant species could be very specific in regards to the forms of crops they cultivate. Most species originate from a style of fungus that the ancestors of the fungus-growing ants began growing. About 55 million to 65 million years ago. Some of them have grow to be cocci and may not survive on their very own without their insect farmers, as can some human crops similar to corn.

Ants began farming thousands and thousands of years before humans.

Ant farmers face most of the same challenges as human farmers, including the specter of pests. is named a parasite. Can destroy ant colonies, causing ants to starve to death. Similarly, in human agriculture, the spread of pests has contributed to disasters similar to The Irish Potato Famine1970 A corn disorder And the present threat to bananas.

Since the Nineteen Fifties, human agriculture has grow to be industrialized and relied upon. A culture, or growing large quantities of the identical style of crop in the identical place. Yet monoculture makes crops more vulnerable to pests since it is less complicated to destroy a whole field of genetically equivalent plants than a more diverse one.

Industrial agriculture has seen chemical pesticides as a partial solution to agricultural pest management A billion dollar industry. The trouble with this approach is that insects can Develop new ways to get around pesticides Researchers can develop more practical chemicals faster. It's an arms race – and insects have a hand in it.

Ants too Grow your crops in monoculture. And on an identical scale – in spite of everything, a leaf will be home to an ant nest. 5 million ants, all of which feed on fungi of their underground gardens. They, too, use pesticides and other pests to regulate them.

Yet, their approach to pesticide use differs from humans in a very important way. Ants are insecticides. Produced by bacteria They grow of their nests and in some cases on their bodies. Keeping the bacteria as a live culture allows the microbes to Adapt in real time For evolutionary changes in insects. In an arms race between insects and farmers, agricultural ants have discovered that living bacteria can act as pharmaceutical factories that may sustain ever-changing insects.

While the main target is on recent developments in agricultural pest management. Genetically engineering Crop plants To make your individual pesticides, the lesson from 55 million years of ants' agriculture is that Utilization of living microorganisms to create Useful products. Researchers are currently experimenting. Application of live bacteria to crop plants To determine in the event that they are effective in producing insecticides that will be developed in real-time alongside the insects.

Improving transportation

Ants can even provide practical lessons within the realm of transportation.

Ants are superb at quickly locating food, whether it's dead insects on the forest floor or some crumbs in your kitchen. They achieve this by leaving one. A trail of pheromones – A selected odorant chemical ants use to guide their nestmates to food. The shortest path to a destination will accumulate probably the most pheromone because more ants can have traveled forwards and backwards along it in a given time.

In the Nineties, computer scientists developed a A class of algorithms Modeled after the behavior of ants that are very effective to find the shortest path between two or more locations. As with real ants, the shortest path to the destination will accumulate probably the most virtual pheromone because more virtual ants can have traveled along it within the given time. Engineers have used this easy but effective approach. Design telecommunication networks. And Map delivery routes.

Thousands of ants can travel the identical route without traffic jams.
Esteban Castao Solano/IM via Getty Images

Not only are ants good at finding the shortest route from their nests to food sources, hundreds of ants are able to traveling these routes without traffic jams. I recently began collaborating with a physicist. Oscar Andre Herrera Sancho To study how leafcutter ants maintain such a gentle flow on their foraging routes without being slowed by crowded human sidewalks and highways.

We Using cameras to track How each ant responds to the unreal constraints placed on it. Forage routes. Our hope is that by gaining a greater understanding of the principles that ants use to answer each obstacles and the movements of other ants, we will develop algorithms that can eventually help program self-driving cars. Can never get stuck in traffic.

Look on the ant

To be fair, there are many ways in which Ants are removed from perfect role models. After all, few ant species are known for Indiscriminate killingand others to enslave children.

But the actual fact is that Ant Remind us of yourself – or the best way we wish to imagine ourselves – in some ways. They live in complex societies. Division of Labour. They Collaborate to nurture your youth.. And they fulfill. Amazing feats of engineering – like constructing structures with air funnels that may house thousands and thousands of individuals – all without blueprints or leaders. Did I mention their societies? Run entirely by women?

There remains to be much to study ants. For example, researchers don't yet fully understand How do ant larvae develop? Either in a queen – a winged female that may live as much as 20 years and lay thousands and thousands of eggs – or a employee – a winged, often sterile female that lives for lower than a 12 months and Performs all other functions within the colony. Moreover, scientists are consistently discovering recent species. 167 new species of ant Only in 2021 were described, bringing the overall to over 15,980.

By considering ants and their many interesting ways, many wisdoms will be gleaned.