Solomon once admonished: "Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: which... gathereth her food in the harvest" (Proverbs 6:6-8). The tiny ant is indeed a remarkable creature. In fact, the social organization and food-gathering abilities of ants are utterly amazing. Consider the tropical leafcutter ant. These industrious insects harvest leaves with a precision and determination that can quickly strip a whole tree or shrub. The largest worker ants from the colony snip the leaves into semicircular pieces of just the right size to be carried off to the nest by other workers. The sight of a little ant struggling to carry a large-sized chunk of leaf is truly awesome; but the fact is, an ant is unimaginably strong and can carry 100 times its own weight! An ant can handle jobs which would be the equivalent of a man pushing a five-ton truck with flat tires up a steep hill! So what do the leafcutter ants do with the leaves once they get them back to the nest? No, they don't eat
INDUSTRIOUS LEAFCUTTER ANTS snip off precise semicircular pieces of vegetation for transport back to the nest. Close-up (above) shows worker ant removing segment of leaf while another worker (below) carries leaf section down to the colony compost pile. The ways of the ant pose perplexing problems for evolution. — See PDF for Pictures
them or store them for food. Instead, like any good organic farmer, they construct their own miniature compost pile by first chewing the leaves into small pieces, then "watering" them down with their own saliva and fertilizing them with their own excretions. The ants then cultivate a special fungus garden which provides food for the colony. Yet that's not the end of the leafcutter's agricultural expertise. They also maintain proper temperature control over their fungus crop by opening and closing ant-made ventilation shafts located near the growing chamber. The ants don't learn to harvest leaves and cultivate their fungus bed; they do it instinctively. But could such a high level of sophistication on the part of the "lowly" ant have resulted from time, chance, and natural selection? How did the ant's ancestors discover the art of organic gardening — cultivating a fungus with chewed — up, fertilized tree leaves? Who taught the leafcutters the art of temperature control? Isn't it reasonable to conclude they had some outside help? Interestingly enough, the earliest known fossils of ants are apparently identical with species now living! For this and many other reasons, ants pose a gigantic problem for the theory of evolution. King Solomon said the study of the ant would make one wise. The apostle Paul said that the mind and power of God could be understood from a study of the things that are made (Romans 1:20). Surely the "ways of the ant" are an excellent place to start.