The Secret Wars of Ants

Humans have a lot to learn.

Ants might seem like cute, fragile little insects who occasionally run over your toes, but did you know that ants actually have been in the midst of a massive and extremely complex series of wars for tens of millions of years?

Ants were around before any of us, before even the breakup of the supercontinent Gondwana over a hundred million years ago. Because they're so fascinating and complex, ant wars are mentioned everywhere from the Bible to Charles Darwin.

Why are ants always fighting? Ants operate in colonies, and when these colonies encounter other colonies, this can lead to wars of stunning proportion, requiring military maneuvers of the highest caliber and risks of the ultimate nature.

Ant Battles: Tournaments, Naval Technology, and Chemical Warfare

Ants are fearsome warriors and very hungry animals. They feast on termites, so if two colonies encounter the same termite, that means trouble. They often attempt to avoid full-on war, though. Sometimes, rival teams will face off at tournament sites where the largest, toughest workers from each colony do battle. In that case, once one group is defeated, the whole colony rushes away, and the luscious termite reward goes to the winning team.

Some individual ant fighters use their mouths as weapons. The trap-jaw ant can snap its mouth open and closed more than 2,300 times faster than a blink of an eye. This species of ant can also use its huge jaw as a catapult to fling itself away from danger.

Ants are formidable foes. Fire ants can create rafts to float on flood waters; leaf cutter ants can carry leaves that are fifty times their body weight; Canadian ants produce anti-freeze to survive frigid temperatures and Sahara desert ants can survive 60 degree Celsius weather. Arguably the toughest battle ant is the red imported fire ant, which is well-known for its burning sting.

Africa's big-headed ants have another tactic: During battle, they transfer a chemical compound to their foes which changes their enemies' appearance, meaning that when they return home, they are not recognized and are killed as intruders. The Texan raspberry crazy ant can spray acid at any threats, a tactic they've lately been using to terrorize the crabs of Christmas Island.

Some ants have also avoided total war by using pebbles to block their entrances and, for a certain Borneo ant species, fending off assailants with toxic yellow glue from internal glands. Human military technology could never.

National Geographic - Army Ants - BBC Wildlife Documentary www.youtube.com

Military Tactics: Hostages, Healers, and the Element of Surprise

Sometimes full-on war is inevitable. Every massive ant battle looks different, but the bloodiest battles happen when one colony decides to raid another. Some ant wars are huge, swirling confrontations; others happen in waves. Sometimes they end in truces, and sometimes the colonies merge.

Different types of ants use different battle tactics to win. For example, army ants—of which more than 130 species have been discovered in the Americas alone—operate like Roman armies, using one united front to surge forward, depending entirely on the element of surprise. Sometimes the waves of these ant battalions can stretch up to 100 feet wide.

Like human armies in World War I, ant armies often place their smallest, weakest, most disposable members on the front lines. After the expendable soldiers have swarmed the enemy, the advanced fighters come in for the kill.

The Amazon ant specializes in stealing hostages from enemy ant tribes, then forcing the kidnapped ants into servitude in their ant kingdom. Ants also tend to use a tactic sometimes known as hive mind. Though the ants don't give or take orders from anyone, when a decision is made or new information appears, it can spread via chemical signals throughout the entire colony in seconds, a phenomenon that has fascinated scientists and algorithm-makers.

Another human-like tactic that ants use: All ant armies have medics that carry wounded soldiers off the field and cart them all the way home. Yes, there are ant medics, and they actually save lives. Ants treat each others' war wounds, cleaning them to stop infections, which can save up to 80% of injured ants from death.

By the way, ants are blind and don't have ears, so they do all this through feeling and smell.

Invasive Species

Ants have always been warlike species, but the presence of humans has brought invasive species all around the world, throwing a wrench in the normal way of ant society and sparking some of the largest ant wars of all time.

Today, in California, invasive Argentine ants and native fire ants are doing battle. Argentine ants also face challenges from yet another invasive species, Asian needle ants, whom they are fighting in another all-out war. Argentine ants are a unique case; they've managed to spread all around the world, yet their own civilizations are almost always peaceful. It's only when another challenger comes along that things get ugly.

Many of the invasive ant species that humans have spread around the world are incredibly resilient and adapt easily to new lands. This means that they're often formidable opponents to the species already living in their new homes.

Invasive ant species can also wage war on humans, leading to crop disease, infesting food, and in some cases (as with the invasive yellow crazy ants in Australia), blinding humans and animals.

So whatever you do, don't underestimate the next anthill you stumble upon. You might just find yourself in an all-out war.

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10 Endangered Animals to Weep Over

Celebrate Endangered Species Day.

An endangered species is not a tragedy, because if a species is endangered, then they aren't yet extinct.

Sadly, there are millions of endangered species across the world, all facing threats that mostly stem from human activities. Still, it's not too late. Take a gander at these majestic animals, and then donate to a wildlife fund or environmental activism group of your choice.


Of course, nature doesn't need saving—humans do—and climate change and environmental destruction are threats to humans as well as animals, but if you need a reminder of the beauty and fragility of the natural world, check out these extraordinary species.



SPONSORED

Do Non-Melatonin Sleep Aids Really Work?

Objective makes a chocolate square.

I Can't Sleep.

I truly cannot remember the last time I had a good night's rest. Even before the stay-at-home orders, I was just a little ball of nerves.

But lately, it's been awful. I toss and turn, it's always too hot or even too cold, sometimes I make myself tea and read for a bit, but when I'm still up at 1 a.m., I reach for my phone and then I'm up until 3. My sister and I have a weekly call, and our small talk about our exhaustion turned into an hour long conversation about sleep.

I Thought I'd Tried Everything. Even Melatonin.

My sister asked why I hadn't gone for the old staple, melatonin and I reminded her about the time we traveled abroad, and it gave me the weirdest nightmares (the horrible kind where you wake up in your dream and you're still in a dream). Chamomile tea didn't work, nothing worked.

She said she had a friend who swore by something I definitely hadn't heard of.

They Were NOT Pills, Teas or Anything I'd Seen Before.

A company called Objective makes Fast Asleep, a sleep solution delivered as chocolatey treats. They're created with saffron and GABA. If going to sleep was as easy as eating a piece of these chocolatey, minty delights every night, I'd be sold.

What Exactly Was In It?

Cocoa contains caffeine, so I didn't know how this would help me sleep. After talking with my sister, I went online and saw that the calming, sleep-supporting ingredients cancel out any of the very little caffeine content.

Saffron, the spice, is apparently known to help with staying asleep, and their GABA is a fermented version of the neurotransmitter that's known to help you relax and fall asleep faster. In a study, 100% of customers saw improvement in their sleep quality thanks to saffron. One hundred percent!

Do I Try It?

A bag of 30 pieces was only $40, and they had a money-back guarantee.

They're keto-friendly and only 30 calories a piece, so not too decadent before bedtime.

They were chocolatey-minty, which is my favorite flavor, so I was sold. I ordered a bag to try.

The First Night, I Wasn't Impressed.

I took one piece (super yummy!) - 30-60 minutes before bedtime is recommended - but when I climbed in, I didn't notice a difference. I was worried I'd wasted my money.

However, once I fell asleep, I stayed asleep until my alarm went off, which hasn't always been the case for me.

I checked the site again, and noticed that many people didn't notice a real difference until the third or fourth night - it builds up in your system over time, so I decided to keep an open mind the rest of the week.

The Second Night Was Completely Different

Without doing anything differently from the first night, my second night was amazing. I felt calm and sleepy as I was getting ready for bed, and once I hit the pillow, I was out the whole night.

It had to be these sweet treats. The next day, I even felt more balanced and relaxed - Fast Asleep helps boost serotonin levels and reduce cortisol (the stress hormone), and I definitely noticed a difference in my overall mood and alertness.

I Already Ordered More.

Just In Case! There's nothing habit-forming about this product, so it's completely safe to take every night, and I honestly always want to keep it in the house. I'd also love to offer it to anyone staying over in the guest room, whenever we have guests again.

Now that I'm getting a healthy 8 hours of sleep every night, I feel more equipped during the day to tackle the things I need to do and deal with some of my daytime stressors. I finally had the energy to clean the kitchen, which had been bothering me so much for the past few weeks.

With Objective's Fast Asleep, I get real sleep and balance my levels, so I don't have to feel tired during my waking hours. Sleep in the form of chocolate squares sounds so weird, but oh my goodness, do they work.

Our partners at Objective Wellness are currently offering a 25% discount if you use the coupon code STAYHOME. Check them out here!

Food & Drink

The Best Apps for Craft Beer Delivery

Try beers from all over the world–from your phone.

With breweries and distilleries out of business for the foreseeable future, your favorite beer may feel particularly out of reach this time of year, especially with the weather changing. But don't let quarantine suck all the fun out of summer. Luckily, thanks to technology, a lot of craft beer is now deliverable straight to your door step. Here are a few of the best apps to help make sure you stay up to date on the latest trendy brews.

Tavour

Tavour

Simplistic and elegant, Tavour allows users to easily fill up a box of beer over a period of time before shipping. The app offers more than 650 different breweries both local and national and is perfect for those who like to experiment. It's easy to use, and their menu rotates regularly so you and your beer never grow stale.

TapRM

TapRM

TapRM offers a wide range of both craft beers and hard seltzers. While based almost exclusively in New York City, the app offers fast, same day delivery from some of the best beer brands in the world. They also provide a unique selection of beers to help you find your new favorite. All you need to do is download the app and place your order!

Drizly

Offering a stark variety of craft beer, Drizly allows its users to mix and match 12-packs, sixers or by the bottle. Their guarantee is that they can have whatever you order delivered to your house in less than an hour. You can even schedule your delivery for a specific time, with each delivery taking around 20-40 minutes.

Saucey

Saucey takes delivery very seriously. When you order with them they guarantee that they'll deliver in 30-minutes or less, or they guarantee two day shipping. Also, beer aside, their entire liquor cabinet is also up for grabs. From tequila and whiksey, to vodka and wine, nothing is off the table for Saucey.

Beer Menus

BeerMenus

For those who enjoy strictly local beers, BeerMenus features a tap list from local bars and a broader stock list from your neighborhood beer store. With that, you can make sure to create a list of your favorite beers in your neighborhood, so that when they're in stock you can be ready to go.