“Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider her ways and be wise.” That biblical injunction from Proverbs 6:6 was written to motivate the lazy and idle person to get busy. The fact is that ants are among the most important life forms God created, and scientists are finding more evidence that ants are essential for life on Earth.
Over 20 quadrillion ants are living on this planet. That’s 20, followed by 15 zeroes. When you add up the total weight of the carbon in those 20 quadrillion ants, you get about 12 million tons. That is more than the combined mass of wild birds and mammals, or about 20% of the total weight of all humans.
Scientists have studied and named more than 15,700 species and subspecies of ants, and their research is adding more to that number each year. Ant chemistry is vital to the existence of all kinds of life. For example, in my army survival training, they taught us to eat ants.
Many people think of ants as pests that serve no purpose but to irritate us and bring problems into our homes. By contrast, research has shown that ants provide a massive service to humans, and we could not survive on planet Earth without them. For example, consider these roles that ants play:
- Ants aerate the soil, disperse the seeds of many plants, and break down organic material, enriching the soil and enhancing plant growth.
- Ants create a habitat for other animals and provide an essential part of the food chain for mammals and birds. Also, many birds rely on ants to flush out their prey.
- Ants are predators that keep populations of other insects in check. They are more effective than pesticides in helping farmers produce food. Ants eat many worms, caterpillars, and insects that eat our crops and leave no destructive chemicals as pesticides do.
Like much of what God created for our benefit, ants help us in many ways we overlook. Managing God’s gifts requires protecting life forms, including ants. Ants are essential for life on Earth. Remembering the verse from Proverbs, we need to “consider the ant” in more ways than one.
— John N. Clayton © 2022
Our thanks to David Harrington who brought us this research report from “The Conversation”