The Antics of An Ant

While I was trying to install a whiteboard on my desk, I used 3M’s double sided tape. Quick tip, never use 3M tape unless you know that you never want to remove it! I couldn’t get most of the tape off my table, and that’s the white thing you see on the table in the video. Luckily, that tape created an interesting experiment right on my table.

While I was working at my desk, I saw a fly that was stuck in the tape, and an ant that was trying to lift it off. If you saw the video, you know that the ant was successful. There were a few more experiments I conducted that produced some interesting results.

Can ants lift 10 times their own weight?

Most ants can lift atlas three times their own weight and there is well-documented research with precise capabilities of different ants noted. By scaling approximations, the ant in the above video weighs anywhere from 0.3 to 0.6 mg, while the fly weighs 2.5 to 3 mg. So the ant definitely lifts a weight much greater than its own body weight.

How much does it take to stop an ant from moving with this weight?

This was a very interesting question to answer. On the sticky tape, the ant seemed to find it very hard to move. It took the ant well over 10 minutes to escape the sticky tape prison. Once it got past that, there was a hair in front of it, which it wasn’t able to get over at all. Only when the hair was removed did it make any progress. As is evident from the video, the ant moved incredibly fast with the load on the table. Even when I blew on the ant from a 20cm distance, it walked with the load, albeit slower.

What does it take to detach the ant from its load?

From my experiments, a LOT. I wasn’t able to separate the two. I blew a gust of wind that was enough to throw the ant 20 cm away, but it still had its load with it. I then lifted the load up and shook it vigorously, but the ant still held on to the load. This led me to the conclusion that the bite of an ant is incredibly strong, and on looking it up, my guess was confirmed here.

How do ants find their way around?

Based on what I saw, and what you can see in the video, it seems to be completely random initially. The reason I say this is because the ant actually went far away from the sticky tape and then came back to that exact same spot after circling around the table. I think it needs time to find its way back.

Are ants social animals?

Ants are famous for their cooperation and group effort. However, I’m not sure that this works every time. The reason I say this is that when two other ants went near this ant, they simply walked around without sharing the ¬†load. Even when I forced these two ants to walk right in front of the other ant by blocking all other paths, they still walked around the other ant. It seemed as though they knew that the ant was there but didn’t see the need to help. I have two theories about this. Maybe the ants actually didn’t know that the other ant was there, and maybe ant communication is not that simple. Otherwise, despite being aware of the presence of the other ant, they chose not to help because the fly wasn’t too “hard” to lift. The problem with this second hypothesis is that the first ant seemed to move slower and slower every five minutes, which might indicate that it could not bear the load without strain. Of course, I don’t know the actual reason behind this, but these reasons seem plausible to me. Let me know what you think!