Rancho Ant-o

Heymatt:

When my daughter was a child, she had an ant farm. I thought it had a hospital and a cemetery. Do ants have hospitals and cemeteries?

Naomi, the net

Were they out behind the barn? Near the silo? That must have been a heck of a set-up your daughter had. Actually, I'm just joking. Ants do have cemeteries. Hospitals maybe not so much, but cemeteries definitely. Think of ant colonies as big communities of specialized workers. Everybody with an assignment. No slackers allowed. In a well-oiled machine, nothing is more annoying than bodies cluttering up the place. Dead ants are carried off by the corpse-removal squad and deposited in a pile of their deceased brethren. Injured ants might just keep on truckin', depending on the type of injury. Broken legs or bent antennae might not slow them down at all. If it's a life-threatening injury, depending on the species and the circumstances, they might be killed by the colony or languish until they are corpsified and can be pitched out. There are more than 11,000 species of ants in every habitat from jungles to deserts, so traditions vary. Ants squashed between glass have limited opportunities. Ironically, a farm is one thing your daughter's ants couldn�t have. Some species of ants �farm� aphids. Used kind of like milk cows. An ant farm can have a cemetery, but it can�t have a farm.

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