Language & Communication27th May 2015

Communication - Animal Kingdom v Human Society - Lessons to be Learned?

Is overly complex human intelligence and strength of opinion stopping us from solving some of the most basic of problems

by Robbie Jones

There are some topics I never would have thought I would ever write about and ants is one of them. But doing some much needed gardening the other day, something caught my attention that really had me thinking about every day communication. The following might all seem a bit mad, but stick with me.

Picking up a patio stone that had been in place a couple of years, I uncovered an ant community. What the heck has that got to do with communication I know you will be asking. Well, within this ant community there were literally thousands of ants, but there were also thousands of little white eggs. Each egg must have been about 5 times the size of the tiny black ants. Covered only by the patio slab, all of the ants and all of the eggs were now in plain sight. 

No idea why, I was fascinated, and I continued to watch. Somehow, it seemed as though every ant within that community knew it had a job to do, and just got on to do it. Initially, single ants started dragging the eggs to one of a number of holes that led further underground. Dwarfed by the egg really, you could see this was hard work, but determined they slowly made progress towards one of the burrow holes. As I watched, I saw other ants picking up the other end of the egg, and in their pairs they were able to make quicker progress, the eggs starting to disappear down these holes at an ever increasing speed.

The holes were barely big enough for one egg to go down at a time, and amazingly, the ants seemed to form an orderly queue with their eggs, ensuring that there was no blockage at the entrance to the hole. Within minutes, tens if not hundreds of the eggs had been hidden and within 20 minutes every single egg, and every single ant had disappeared underground.

It was an amazing feat of team work, with every last ant in that community knowing what it’s job was and just knuckling down and getting it done for the sake of the community. I would love to know how ants learned to do this and just how it was done in such a quick but orderly fashion. The instant communication around thousands and thousands of ants, however it happened, worked brilliantly.

Being a thinker, I found myself reflecting on this feat of nature and wondering why as a Deaf man, I experience every day problems communicating with the world around me. Belonging to what is considered the most superior species on the planet because of our brain power, it feels like we are miles behind even ants when it comes to working together, protecting each other and looking after our own people.


في الإتحاد قوة!

Posted by AraGeek on Sunday, 11 January 2015

For example, if I was in the loo in some of the UK shopping centres and the fire alarm went off, or if there was a need to evacuate, lots of those shopping centres are unable to communicate that to me. That’s the same scenario as the ants, and yet they seem to be able to do it with military precision. Now I accept that the ant community probably didn’t fork out thousands of pounds on their system, but is that alone an acceptable excuse, I don’t think so. Newly built or renovated centres, costing multi millions of pounds sometimes design in access but quite often just in respect of physical access, not the sensory ones.

It’s difficult to draw a parallel between our society and the ant community, I know that. It would be daft to try. After all, our lives are far more complex and our intelligence means that there is far more to consider in making decisions, but in one aspect of life - evacuation - it does seems the ants are more capable to look after their own than we are.

I wonder what other aspects of nature puts us humans to shame!

Article by Robbie Jones

posted in Community / Language & Communication

27th May 2015