The Omega Ant

I was quite excited to find that my last post was chosen for Freshly Pressed on April 5th. Huzzah! So now it’s time for my first update on the Ant Farm. But, alas, tragedy has struck this budding community…

Within a few hours of the ants being introduced to their new home, they had established a system of tunnels and chambers. Most of the tunnels were lateral, running between the different layers of sand, and radiating out from the central feeding hub of the farm. The ants decided to deposit the soil from their excavations in the hub. I was quite proud of them by this stage and felt that the colony was off to a great start.

Look! Tunnels! And my reflection!

But a sentence from my first post has come back to haunt me: I hope I have smart ants.

Indeed, I do.

Because over the next 24 hours, the entire colony proceeded to escape from the Ant Farm. I noticed some ants on the benchtop next to the farm, but even a double-check of all possible escape routes didn’t prevent their mass exodus. In hindsight, I’ve reconstructed what happened: the farm needs to be placed upside down to fill the chamber with soil. When this is complete, I sealed the bottom of the chamber with adhesive strips before turning the farm the right way up. Clearly, the weight of the soil on these adhesive strips caused them to bow outwards, ever so slightly, but enough for the ants to squeeze through. So once they had tunneled down to the bottom, it was just a matter of climbing out along the base.

The next morning, I found a single ant left in my farm. The Omega Ant. An amalgamation between Richard Matheson’s I am Legend (1954) and The Shrinking Man (1956). With six legs. As he roamed those lonely tunnels, devoid of company, weary of his isolation, I knew it would only be a matter of time before he, too, escaped into the wilderness of my backyard. Even as I watched, the Omega Ant fled down that tunnel and emerged from the base of the farm. Freedom. Horrible, horrible freedom.

With the Omega Ant having departed, it is time for me to start again. In the coming days I shall fashion a more effective seal for the base of the farm, then begin collecting another colony of ants. I’ve read that ants hate to be placed on the same soil as another colony, so it should be interesting to watch the results. Will they merely huddle in the feeding hub? Or will they explore and expand the deserted highways of their predecessors?

And… will the Omega Ant return?

(Probably not.)

The abandoned Ant Farm. Light can be seen shining through some of the tunnels on the right.

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