It is said that the two most intelligent animals, next to man, are the largest, the elephant, and one of the smallest, the ant. Ants have been very carefully watched and studied by learned men, who prove that they are wise and clever insects.
There are very many different kinds of ants, and each kind has its own special habits. Some ants are large and strong and have powerful jaws and poisonous stings. Some in Africa and America travel in vast armies, which drive the natives in fear out of their villages. Others are very small and quite harmless.
All kinds of ants live in large societies, as men live in towns. Some make their nests, or ant-towns, underground: and some build-up high mounds, like small hills, and live in the galleries and rooms they make inside. In all these ant-nests are females, who lay eggs, and males, who are killed off (like the drone-bees); but most of the ants are neither male nor female. and these do all the work of the nest. These working ants are divided into the soldiers, who protect the nest and make war on other kinds of ants, and the workers, who are busy all day feeding the young, fetching food, digging, building, carrying burdens, and cleaning. These ants are very busy creatures, and always seem to be running about doing some kind of work. So the wise King Solomon advised lazy people to watch the busy ants and learn to be industrious—”Go to the ant, thou sluggard; learn her ways, and be wise”
Some very curious things have been found out about ants. One is, that some kinds really keep slaves. The soldiers go out and make a raid on another ant-nest, generally belonging to some smaller kind. They fight a real battle, and then enter the captured ant-city and carry off all the baby ants. These they feed in their own ant-city and make them work for them as slaves.
Another strange thing is that they keep “cows”. There is an insect that spoils roses, called the aphis or green-fly that gives out a sweet juice that ants like. So the ants capture these green flies and keep them in their nests, and regularly “milk” them for the sweet juice.
Other ants grow crops like farmers. They are fond of a kind of fungus as food, and to grow it they gather heaps of pieces of leaves in their nests, in which their fungus will grow.