Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 11.djvu/58

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

more numerous, and had carried off about two-thirds of the honey. At 7 a. m. the next morning the honey was all gone; two or three ants were still wandering about, but no notice had been taken of the prisoner, whom I then let out. In this case I allowed the honey to be finished, because I thought it might perhaps be alleged that the excitement produced by such a treasure distracted their attention; or even, on the principle of doing the greatest good to the greatest number, that they were intelligently wise in securing a treasure of food before they rescued their comrade, who, though in confinement, was neither in pain nor danger. So far as the above ants, however, are concerned, this cannot be urged. I may add that I repeated the same experiment several times, in some cases with another species, Myrmica ruginodis, and always with the same results.

Ants have been much praised on account of their affection for their friends. In this respect, however, they seem to vary greatly. At any rate, any one who has watched them much must have met with very contradictory facts. I have often put ants which were smeared with a sticky substance on the boards attached to my nests, and very rarely indeed did their companions take any notice of or seek to disentangle them.

I then tried the following experiment: A number of the small yellow ants (L. flavus) were out feeding on some honey. I took five of them, and also five others of the same species, but from a different nest, chloroformed them, and put them close to the honey, and on the path which the ants took in going to and from the nest, so that these could not but see them. The grass on which the honey was placed was surrounded by a moat of water. This, then, gave me an opportunity of testing both how far they would be disposed to assist a helpless fellow-creature, and what difference they would make between their nest-companions and strangers from a different community. The chloroformed ants were put down at ten in the morning. For more than an hour, though many ants came up and touched them with their antennæ, none of them did more. At length one of the strangers was picked up, carried to the edge of the glass, and quietly thrown, or rather dropped, into the water. Shortly afterward a friend was taken up and treated the same way. By degrees they were all picked up and thrown into the water. One of the strangers was, indeed, taken into the nest, but in about half an hour she was brought out again and thrown into the water like the rest. I repeated this experiment with fifty ants, half friends and half strangers. In each case twenty out of the twenty-five ants were thrown into the water as described. A few were left lying where they were placed, and these also, if we had watched longer, would no doubt have been also treated in the same way. One out of the twenty-five friends, and three out of the twenty-five strangers, were carried into the nest, but they were all brought out