The nest after the queen dies shows the "old" and "dead" similar to human society, which is like observing human society. "The end of time with a reliable partner as usual

author:Look at the world
The nest after the queen dies shows the "old" and "dead" similar to human society, which is like observing human society. "The end of time with a reliable partner as usual

An exhibition at Tama Zoo in Hino City, Tokyo, Japan, specifically shows how an ant colony dies after losing its queen. Recently, the leaf-cutting ant exhibition at Tama Animal Park (Hino City, Tokyo) has become a hot topic. The exhibition director said the nest's queen died in May this year, and since then, the nest has gradually become smaller, and this situation is said to continue until the end of this month. This group of ants was originally born in Peru, South America.

Grow your own mushrooms to eat ants

The nest after the queen dies shows the "old" and "dead" similar to human society, which is like observing human society. "The end of time with a reliable partner as usual

It is a leaf-cutting ant known as "Atta sex dens". It is known as an insect that is cultivated in agriculture. Leafcutter ants chew on the leaves, bring the leaves into the nest, chew them into small pieces, and then plant mushrooms on the broken leaves. Mushrooms do not have stems, but rather fungi that look like white lumps, which are food for leafcutter ants.

The "queen" leaves the nest from the group in which she was born and forms the group herself from the beginning. Worker ants are their own children (daughters). About half a year after nesting began in Peru, the nests were collected together and moved to Japan in its entirety in December 2014.

Ryohei Watanabe, a keeper and exhibitor at the Insect Museum, recalled the scene when the insect swarm was in full swing. "Compared to previous colonies, the growth rate of the fungal garden is quite fast, and the increase in the number of worker ants is also jaw-dropping. They are not too picky about the plants they cut, which is a good thing for their staff.

For many years, the queen has been the most important attraction in the insect park of Tama Zoo, working with her worker ants to protect the nest. In May, six and a half years after she came to the park, she was found dead. She is the longest-lived queen in the park's history.

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The nest after the queen dies shows the "old" and "dead" similar to human society, which is like observing human society. "The end of time with a reliable partner as usual

The death of the queen bee means the "end" of the bee colony. "Since all worker bees are the children of the queen bee, the colony will gradually decline as the worker bee lifespan (6 months to 1 year) is reached.

The death of the queen means the "end" of the nest. "Because all worker ants are queen children, as worker ants reach the end of their lives (half a year to a year), the population will gradually decrease." After the queen died, I posted a sign like this in front of the nest exhibition. "The queen is dead and you will rarely get a chance to see the colony decline, because we will continue to show the colony, so be sure to observe how the loss of the queen will affect the group, how the nest will change, and usher in the future of the end of the colony."

On Twitter, comments such as "It's like looking at a society" and "Very emotional" were received.

"Old" and "dead" without positive performance

In fact, in the past, queens have also died, but tourists are usually informed that the entire colony is endangered. When a colony loses momentum, it is replaced by another young colony waiting in the backyard. "Until now, if tourists find that the colony doesn't cut too many leaves, people should realize that the colony has changed."

Why should we focus on the last? "Mr. Watanabe said: The end of an ant colony, like the end of a person's life, naturally involves 'aging' and 'death'. In fact, in other insect exhibitions, we do not actively show "old age" and "death.". But I think it would be a shame if we didn't show how the colony lived and how to end its life. To the other ants responsible for "cutting leaves," it is also a way to show the "sociality" of the Hakiri ants. Usually, the focus is on leaf-cutting work, but the main attraction of the exhibition is that you can see the highly decentralized division of labor (social) up close." When the colony is running smoothly, visitors are less likely to see ants responsible for anything but cutting leaves. In fact, there are more than a dozen different sized worker ants, each roughly divided into the following roles:

Search the area around the nest, build, maintain and secure the path from the target plant to the nest;

Cutting and handling leaves;

Receiving, cleaning, chopping and handling leaves;

Expansion of the fungal garden;

Maintenance of fungal grass gardens;

Nesting (digging holes, etc.);

Cleaning the nest;

Harvesting of mycelium (food);

Decomposition of old hyphae;

Caring for and moving eggs, larvae and pupae;

Care and cleaning of workers;

Take care of the queen.

Although queens are often seen as "commanding and controlling colonies", colonies do not die immediately after the queen dies, and worker ants "continue to perform their respective tasks to maintain the same lifestyle as before".

On the other hand, since all worker ants are the children of queens, after the queen dies, each worker ant gradually disappears after a lifespan of six months to one year. Then, "when one of the workers starts cutting, the nest collapses." Up to now, the number of ants responsible for "cutting leaves", "chopping and handling leaves", "cleaning nests" and "setting up fungal gardens" has decreased significantly.

Because you can't track the movements of each of their ants.

By declaring them "after losing their queens, they are in decline," this exhibition gives us a glimpse of the responsibility of the entire colony. Mr. Watanabe thought of this.

"I want you to know about the activities of worker ants in addition to cutting leaves, the real role of queens with a strong 'commander' image, and the difference between the social and human societies of worker ants." The nest is updated in a panel titled "What Happened After the Queen Died." On Twitter, people wanted to observe through live streaming, but because the exhibition itself was relatively large, "when trying to show the whole group, follow the movement of each worker ant." Hard to get close. Go to the nest and observe, "So there seems to be no plans to release live images."

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Some on Twitter wondered if the ants sensed the queen was dying and would mutiny or move to another colony?

Mr. Watanabe responded with his own theory.

"From a human perspective, the death of the queen ant and the death of her workers is a tragic event (although from the perspective of a non-social insect, humans are quite different because it is normal for some of them to serve others without reproducing).

However, they are not a community of people like a company or a country, but a large family of mothers and daughters. Therefore, I personally believe that this is closer to the feeling of living in a family, where all family members share the housework and farm work.

It's a bit difficult to say if you're going to leave your family and the house you grew up in, just because sooner or later you're all going to leave. As you said in the question, it's important not to get caught up in a shipwreck and to go out into the world looking for opportunities. However, for wildlife, "going to a world full of enemies and dangers to find a new home after the situation has deteriorated" involves considerable risk.

However, I myself don't like changes in my living environment, and I'm a shy person, so I think it's possible for termites (worker ants) to seek peace of mind by living as usual with people they can trust (their families) from start to finish.