By Eve Fairbanks, The Washington Post, January 1, 2018
Over Christmas, a couple of friends and I took a trip to a farm called Riverstill. The farm is near the South Africa-Botswana border, a 500-mile dust trail patrolled by scorpions, a few cattle and giant ants the size of a person’s pinkie fingernail. On Christmas morning, I sat on the riverbank to think. After a few minutes, I noticed the patch of dust to the right of my thigh, which had been bare, had suddenly sprouted an anthill.
I’ve always been fascinated by ants: not by their discipline but by their product. Ants are artists. They could just throw the dirt they evacuate from their nests out of the hole, like gophers do, but they don’t. Some are potters: Harvester ants make beautiful, near-symmetrical concentric circles from the mud, like the ribbed vases sold in high-end ceramic studios. Others are sculptors, wrapping moist dirt particles around the tiniest of sticks to create oblong pellets. And still others are architects, molding bits of detritus into convex shapes so rainwater can run off. Ants remind me of a few people I know who are unwilling to see anything in their worlds go unused or unloved. They make elaborate statues out of restaurant straws or fold every piece of junk mail into origami before throwing it away. At the Riverstill farm, the giant ants by the river made a heap of arresting little balls, perfectly round as tapioca pearls.
Humans tend to think our bragging point, as a species, is that we create. We solve problems, we make art. Read more ...