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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If you've googled one thing during this pandemic, it is definitely: "Thai food near me."

Thai food has remained one of the most delicious and sought after takeout gems; and in New York City, specifically, there are so many delicious options that it can be overwhelming. Often unlike Chinese food, Thai food offers fresher ingredients and versatile cuisine options. Whether you want some Pad Thai or Pad See Ew, or some coconut milk-infused curry or even just some soup, Thai food is good for any occasion. But with so many options, how do you know you're getting the freshest ingredients at the best price? Here are the best spots to order take-out from, and we even broke it up by borough for you.


Manhattan: Fish Cheeks

Fish Cheeks

Reviewed by The Times as "fresh, vivid and intense," Fish Cheeks offers solid takes on traditional Thai Cuisine. Their speciality remains seafood, so their Crab Friend Rice and Coconut Crab Curry are delicious highlights. Their Tum Yum is also to die for, made with fresh galanagal, lime leaves and lemongrass.

The version [of tum yum] here hums with fresh galangal, lime leaves and lemongrass. Shrimp and knobby mushrooms simmer in a broth that gets extra body from milk, a twist I've never seen before but one I approve of. It could be spicier, but the use of bird's-eye chiles is far from shy.

Manhattan: Lan Larb

thia food

Arguably some of the best Pad Thai in the city, Lan Larb is focused mainly on the food of Thailand's northeast region. As a result, there is often a combo of meat and seafood involved in most dishes, such as the Lao Chicken Soup, which combines fresh chicken with pickled fish and a steamy brown broth. The menu will make your tastebuds whirl if you're one for experimentation, if not, their Pad Thai is iconic and filling enough on its own.

Brooklyn: Ugly Baby

Brooklyn has always been teeming with amazing Thai food joints, but Ugly Baby is the borough's most established success story. The Carrol Gardens sensation was preceded by two long gone Red Hook restaurants known for their authentic Northern Thai cuisine. With Ugly Baby, a name which comes from an ancient belief in Thailand that ugly children bring good fortune, chef Sirichai Sreparplarn had mastered his craft. The restaurant quickly gained glowing praise throughout Brooklyn and New York, and their take on Khao Soi Nuer and Kao Tod Nam Klook remain the stuff of legends.

Queens: Ayada

ayada thai

Ayada's cuisine is so good that it made a New York Times journalist cry at his table. Not out of emotion though, but out of spice. For those looking for a truly bold eating experience, this Queens Thai restaurant holds nothing back when crafting their drunken noodles or Pad Thai, but that spice is what makes it one of the best spots in the city.

Bronx: Ceetay

​While the Bronx isn't necessarily a buzzing Thai food borough, Ceetay's asian fusion cuisine is of the highest quality and will appeal to anyone desperately needing to nom on some noodles. Their sushi is amazing but their Pad Thai is packed with amazing flavor. Seasoned with onions, peppers, cabbage, carrots, mushrooms, peanuts, scallions and cilantro, this Pad Thai is packed with flavors and will slam your taste buds in the best possible way.

Travel

5 Countries to Visit This Fall

As the weather starts to chill out, we're just getting warmed up to travel

It's not winter yet!

So that means, we're all about that fall travel. It's a beautiful time of year to be outside in many countries, soaking up the colorful landscapes and fresh air. Here are our picks for the top places to visit this fall.

1. Germany

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Burg Eltz Castle is a magical step back into the Middle Ages that's been here for more than 850 years.

2. Switzerland

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The red leaves in Bern are absolutely striking.

3. Italy

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Nothing like the sheer beauty of the formidable Italian alps.

4. Peru

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Machu Picchu beckons visitors from near and far this fall.

5. Mexico

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It's not too cold to skip the beach!

Everyone has heard of the murder-hotel where dark shadows creep at the edge of your vision, or the abandoned house where the furniture moves each time you leave the room.

But sometimes the places set up to capture the fun and fright of the Halloween season for paying customers can be far more horrifying than any ghost stories. These "fake" haunted houses will leave you genuinely haunted.



Pennhurst Haunted Asylum

So spoooky!

Thomas James Caldwell

Pennhurst Asylum was in operation from 1908-1987 in the small town of Spring City, Pennsylvania. While we don't have all the records of the residents' experiences there, it doesn't take much imagination to realize that this building was home to true horrors. In many ways, 1908 wasn't that long ago, but in terms of mental health treatment—especially in small-town Pennsylvania—it was absolutely the dark ages. This was the time of lobotomies, straight jackets, and shock therapy. Whatever the jump scares and fake blood contribute to the fear you will feel walking through Pennhurst Asylum's aging, echoing halls, they can't come close to the deep, sinking feeling caused by the deep history of torment that has left its imprint on the very fabric of the place. Four spooky skulls out of five.

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Haunted Trap House

Like this, but less 90s

In Centreville, Maryand, in the year 1989, a group of visionaries were struck by a bolt of inspiration. What if—instead of zombies and werewolves and demons, and all the stuff out of children's nightmares—what if they filled their haunted house with the real-world nightmares that were actually infesting their city, killing their residents, and generally afflicting every corner of the entire nation. Thus, the Haunted Crack House was born. Since renamed the Haunted Trap House, it's ostensibly an educational experience on the dangers of drug use, it features simulations of overdoses, arrests, and shootings, as well as actual former convicts who are paid to draw on their real experiences to make your visit as terrifying as possible. This kind of fetishizing of human misery to capitalize on the Halloween season is as despicable as it is spooky. Four-and-a-half skulls out of five.

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McKamey Manor

He technically consented to this

A $20,000 reward? A 40-page waiver? These figures have garnered a lot of attention in recent headlines. Supposedly this is the "scariest" haunted house experience in the country. Who could resist the temptation of that once-in-a-lifetime experience, combined with the chance to win a big cash prize? Unfortunately, that is exactly what Russ McKay wants. There's a reason he's put so much work into the legal side of his operation. Rather than gassing up neutered chainsaws and chasing you around in a hockey mask, McKay has opted for producing actual, real, straight-up torture. You may not find the decorations and costumes that scary, but you will absolutely fear for your life when you consent to be water-boarded with fake blood. For being operated by a man who is clearly an unhinged psychopath, McKamey Manor ties the Haunted Traphouse, with four-and-a-half spooky skulls.

💀💀💀💀.5/5

Donald Vann's House of Horrors

Donald Vann murdered eleven people. Happens to the best of us, but it does present a problem. How do you dispose of all those bodies? Donald's solution was to open a haunted house and put his victims' decaying remains on display as props. Props to him. For eight months he prepared his fetid, malodorous horrors, before debuting on October 1st. Unfortunately, you won't be able to visit his house of horrors, because he has since landed in some legal trouble—board of health, maybe?—but I'm sure for the lucky few who were able to visit during its brief tenure, and witness Vann's "psychotic smirk," I'm sure the nightmares they're left with keep on spooking.

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Every Hell House in America

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In the same vein as the Haunted Traphouse, Hell Houses are church presentations intended as educational experiences that warn kids and teens away from the path of sin. Their methods for achieving this obviously vary, but according to The Washington Post, you can generally expect the following: "A devil ushers a gay man dying of AIDS into the fiery pit. A teenager who is raped at a drug-filled rave commits suicide and also goes to hell. A young girl hemorrhaging from an abortion repents at the last minute." Awful. Truly sickening. What kind of trauma are they inflicting on these children to prop up their outdated ideologies? Six spooky skulls. Where'd that extra skull come from?? Nobody knows…

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