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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 16.djvu/858

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

A LIVING HONEYCOMB.

MUCH as has been written about the marvels of instinct, there are still discoveries of great interest to be made in this prolific field. Particularly in the domain of those insect Yankees, the ants, with their wonderful ingenuity and human-like manners and customs, there is room for extended observations.

Some lately discovered facts in relation to them are so curious and interesting that it may be advisable to give them greater publicity than they have yet obtained. Some of these facts have long been known to the world of science, but not to the public. Others are new discoveries. As a whole they form one of the most surprising chapters in the history of animal life and contrivance.

Varied as are the social habits of the ants, it is generally considered that social bees surpass them in one particular, namely, their mode of storing supplies of winter food, the storehouses of ant-food having no contrivance similar in ingenuity to the honeycomb, with its rich supply of the sweets of life.

But the truth is that certain tribes of ants are well aware of the value of nature's sweetmeats as articles of food, and have developed a mode of storing up their winter honey still more curious than that practiced by the bees. They possess, in fact, what may be called living honeycombs; perambulatory cells filled with distilled sweetness. We refer to the honey-bearing ants of New Mexico, concerning which some very interesting facts have been brought to light during the past summer.

The Rev. Dr. McCook, of Philadelphia, a noted observer of ants and ant-life, has been interviewing these honey-bearers, and his results differ so widely from the ordinary facts of insect instinct that they can not but prove of general interest. These ants had been previously known only in New Mexico, but he discovered them in Colorado, inhabiting the locality known as the "Garden of the Gods," their nests being excavated in the stony crests of low ridges which run through this mountain-girt paradise.

The ridges are composed of a friable sandstone, into which our minute masons mine deeply, digging galleries which sometimes run for several feet into the rock. The nest, outwardly, is some ten inches in diameter by from two to three and a half inches in height, composed of sand and bits of stone carried from within, some of which seem large enough to defy a regiment of ants to move them.

Inside the nests successive chambers are excavated, connected by galleries, the floors of the chambers being comparatively smooth, while the ceilings are left in a rough state. But this roughness is no evidence of carelessness in the builder. It has, on the contrary, an im-