Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 11.djvu/62

This page has been validated.

tunity when the ant was on the glass, and moved the glass with the ant on it about three inches. Now, under such circumstances, if she had been much guided by sight, she could not of course have had any difficulty in finding her way to the nest. As a matter of fact, however, she was entirely at sea, and, after wandering about for some time, got back to the nest by another and very round-about route. I then again varied the experiment as follows: I placed the food in a small china cup on the top of the pencil, which thus formed a column seven and a half inches high. When the ant once knew her way, she went very straight to and from the nest. This puzzled her very much; she went over and over the spot where the pencil had previously stood, retraced her steps several times almost to the nest, and then returned along the old line, showing great perseverance, if not much power of vision. I then moved the pencil six inches. She found the pencil at last, but only after many meanderings.

I then repeated the observation on three other ants, with the same result; the second was seven minutes before she found the pencil, and at last seemed to do so accidentally; the third actually wandered about for no less than half an hour, returning up the paper bridge several times.

Let us compare this relatively to man. An ant measuring say one-sixth of an inch, the pencil, being seven inches high, is consequently forty-two times as long as the ant. It bears, therefore, somewhat the same relation to the ant as a column two hundred and fifty feet high does to a man. The pencil having been moved six inches, it is as if a man in a country he knew well would be puzzled at being moved a few hundred feet, or, if put down in a square containing less than an acre, could not find a column two hundred and fifty feet high, that is to say, higher than the Duke of York's column.

Another evidence of this consists in the fact that if, when my L. nigers were carrying off food placed in a cup on a piece of board, I turned the board round so that the side which had been turned toward the nest was away from it, and vice versa, the ants always returned over the same track on the board, and consequently directly away from home. If I moved the board to the other side of my artificial nest, the result was the same. Evidently they followed the road, not the direction.

It is remarkable that we do not even now know exactly how an ants' nest is begun. Whether they always commence as a colony from some older establishment; whether wandering workers who chance to find a queen under certain circumstances remain with her and begin a new nest; or whether the queen ant, like the queen wasp, forms a cell for herself, and then brings up a few workers, who afterward take upon themselves the labors of the family, as yet we know not. When once started, the communities last for years, being kept up by a succession of individuals. The queens themselves