Man could learn a lot from the ant, it had been said. References to the ant could be found in the Bible (such as Proverbs 6:6). In 1977, Samuel Z Arkoff turned H.G. Wells' 1905 book 'Empire of the Ants' into a motion picture featuring 'Dynasty' star Joan Collins. At the beginning of the movie, the narrator told the audience, "(The ant) may very well be the dominant life-form of our planet. Sound incredible? Impossible? Have you ever taken a good close look at what the ant is all about?...Frightening isn't it, that a creature as small as an ant is able to have a fair claim to rank next to man in the scale of intelligence. They have a sophisticated communication system. Specific messages are transmitted from one ant to another through the use of a chemical substance called pheromone. It causes an obligatory response. Did you hear that? Obligatory. Pheromone given orders that cannot be disobey. It's a mind-bending substance that forces obedience."
There were said to be at least 15,000 different types of ants in the world and the ants would easily outnumber all the insects combined. As a rule there would only be one queen ant in the nest and she would lay all the eggs for the whole colony. The Rev. James Gillespie pointed out in 1998, each ant had been assigned with a job. For example some of those eggs would hatch into worker ants (cut and sewed leaves), some farmer ants (till fields of fungus plants), bringer of food ants (insects such as worm, bug, aphid), bearer of good news ants, some medical ants (nursing the wounded ants) and in some ant nests, great armies of eggs would hatch into fierce solider ants, acting as the protectors of the colony.
As mentioned the ant possessed "surprisingly human-like behaviors" from farming to waging wars. It was explained, "All ants are fighters. They alone in the animal kingdom wage organized warfare. Colony fights colony for the possession of territory...Among the most vicious fighters in the insect world are the little red ants. Often they win over the big black ones. The reds make up in ferocity what they lack in size. Seldom does either side back down or retreat. The struggle goes on until one side is exterminated. Not until then do the remnants of the triumphant army move on about their business peacefully. They play for keeps, and no holds are barred. One ant simply crushes its opponent by main strength, then moves on to tackle another. There is no plan of attack during these ant wars. The insects simply tear into one enemy after another until there are no enemies left. In time of peril, inhabitants of an ant hill quickly seal the entrances to their homes against invasion. They do this with dirt, grains of sand and other substances. However, an invading horde usually breaks through in time and heavy fighting takes place."
An observation was also made, "Perhaps the strangest feature of the ant kingdom is the method of conducting funerals. When an honored member of a colony dies, it is buried in a single grave with an impressive funeral procession, including pallbearers. Two ants carry the body of the deceased. When they tire, 2 more take their places and the march continues. The body is deposited in the grave and the earth filled in. Then the mourners go about their everyday tasks just as though nothing had happened."
It was noted, "An ant colony has no use for shirkers. Every member of a colony is expected to do its share of the work. At an ant hill there is always work to do. Repairs become necessary at times. Food must be gathered. The shirkers often go hungry. If ants refuse to work they do not eat. Life is pretty grim in the ant kingdom." It was suggested, "At your first opportunity, observe ants at work. Watch them closely. You will see some interesting things."
In 1998, Reuters News Service spoke to scientists at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Balboa, Panama. Those researchers had conducted a "genetic analysis of more than 500 different kinds of fungi taken from ant nests." Biologist Ulrich Mueller made known, "What the ants have demonstrated is that it may not be possible to maintain an agricultural life for long periods without some connection to free-living close relatives (of the species being farmed). Maybe there is a message to humans. We may need that genetic material that lives out there in the wild. This says something to me about the need to protect some of that biodiversity out there. We have to maintain some sort of genetic backup system out there."
Ulrich also made the comment, "What people have assumed is that way way back in time, and we now know it was about 50 million years ago, there was this one freak accident, when ants domesticated a fungus. We show now (in 1998) that the ants have, repeatedly throughout their evolutionary history, domesticated different kinds of fungi. Think of the Irish potatoes and everyone was using them and suddenly this fungal pathogen devastated the entire crop within a 2-year period. I would not be surprised that in such a situation of desperation, because loss of a fungus means death, that they would become quite belligerent. They may try to take over another nest, kill them, drive them out or take some fungus. In that case ants would not be different from humans. Whenever stakes are so high, aggression tends to come through in a lot of animals. They raid other species and they kill the queen and bring the brood home to their own nest and have them labor in their own nests. Once they have acquired what people have called slaves, they no longer take care of the basic duties in the nest. They have their slaves do that."