"Solomon says 'Study Ants.'"
Authored By Mike Furey
Practically all of the scientific information in this sermon comes from Eric Hoyt's book "The Earthdwellers."
You can always recognize an ant scientist; they tend to walk with their head bowed down pointing toward the earth in search of ants -and they carry around a picnic basket. Even though ants and Yogi bear types are associated with picnic baskets, ants never go on a picnic, they never play. Don't feel sorry for the little critter though...
"...their reputation as the hardest working animal on Earth may not be deserved. At any given moment, only a small fraction of a colony's workers are actually working. Inside the nest, most are standing still, grooming themselves or just walking around aimlessly. The individuals of one typical ant colony were found to be inactive 78 percent of the time." (p.31).
Their resting or inactivity probably has survival value because they work at prime times and use the work force only as needed. They work together so well as a team that some scientists call a colony a superorganism, which means it is like one big animal or like the individual cells working together in the human body. If the workers in the body of Christ worked with such harmony it would become one of the seven wonders of the world. Unfortunately, the church usually works at crossed wills in a hodgepodge and disorganized manner. Apparently ants are more faithful servants in their contexts than Christians in their worlds and churches.
We still don't know how many different kinds of life forms live on planet Earth. In 1753, 1.4 million species were catalogued and named: 344,000 plants; 42,000 vertebrates; 263,000 invertebrates and micro organisms; and 750,000 insects. Bugs rule! More than half of the known species are insects. Today 10 million to 100 million species are believed to be out there. The jungle canopy is the new frontier as an undiscovered world. Worldwide, an estimated 10% of the biomass is ants. This means that ants turn more earth than all the world's human farmers. Ants are just about every where in the world, only three known ant species range north beyond the tree line of the Arctic. Do they live in igloos? Lastly, 9,500 species of ants have been catalogued, but there are probably 6,000 more yet undiscovered. If you want to discover a new species of ants, simply have a picnic in a place unusual and they will come to you. Do this before we pollute the planet any further and destroy these fellow earthlings.
Ant Anatomy: What does an ant look like?
Ants have a very crunchy body according to some tribes in South America which eat them. In my own experience I have discovered that ants are very different in anatomy from the common cockroach. Roaches crunch and squish when you apply pressure to their eksoskeleton. Ants barely crunch and have no humanly perceptible squish because their bodies are smaller and contain less guts. (That fact comes out of my childhood observations; I am against this type of behavior as an adult.) Ants, like all insects, have skeletons on the outside of their bodies instead of indoor skeletons like us. An ant has three sections to its body: head, thorax in the middle, and abdomen or gaster as a "tail." It has six legs and two antennae. It has scissor-like jaws or mandibles that are awesome weapons. One species was noted to be able to close its mandibles at twenty miles per hour, which is fast when you're only going one millimeter. It has a brain, a heart, and a very interesting system of exocrine glands. In other words, the ant has a complex network of internal pipes that conduct and release chemicals. One of the chemicals is poisonous or acidic. Most of the other chemicals called pheromones are for communication purposes. Actually the poisonous chemical is for communication purposes also. In ant talk, getting stung with its poison means "get out of my way, you are bugging me."
In humans, we have body and soul. We need to feed our body and our mind with good things. We feed our physical self healthy foods, we don't take in poison on purpose. Our spiritual self, likewise, needs a healthful diet. We need the Lord's Word. We need to avoid the poisons of this world.
Communication: Scent signals or smell signals
Ant communication is the most fascinating aspect of ant studies. A scholar named E.O. Wilson of Harvard did pioneering work in ant chemical communications, particularly with the chemical called pheromone. Ants smell the chemical and the message within the chemical. Ants can taste odors, but mostly they pick up odors in vapor form through more than two hundred cones that function as odor receptors on their antennae.
The ant sends a message through the chemical-releasing exocrine glands in its gaster or from its mouth, but it receives the message through its antennae. Ninety percent of ant communication is chemical; the rest is tactile or visual or combinations thereof. Ants can use treetops and stars to orient themselves.
Ants have about twenty chemical messages they can send. Ants are a walking drug store. In comparison, birds do not have a sense of smell, which would be devasting for the bug world. Some of the messages are as follows:
1. Alarm: "Watch out, anteater in the area." Hoyt says on page 69, "The night time world hears, feels, SMELLS the threat." The strength of the message or the degree of danger can be announced by how much of the compound is released. The more dispensed, the more serious the situation.
2. Request for grooming: "Clean me." Ants like to be clean, although some types may camouflage themselves with dirt in times of ant warfare. As humans we need to be spiritually groomed. Prayer is communication for people to God. We need to send sweet prayers of repentance and petition to God, especially the sinner's prayer of cleansing from sin.
3. Request for feeding: "Feed me." This sign can be counterfeited by certain highway beetles to rob ants of food. The devil is a counterfeiter of spiritual food.
4. Trail marker: "Follow me." The trail marks may last six to twelve days, even up to thirty-one days.
5. Rescue: "Help me; dial 911 emergency."
6. Work call: "Let's gather together and dig here."
7. Territorial or home range signals: "I'm home."
8. Nest markers: "Here are the babies."
9. Caste recognition: There are seven caste levels in leaf cutter ants who perform twenty-nine different tasks or social functions. I think this is what impressed Solomon: their amazing teamwork and division of labor. How do they just do what they do without schools, without a supervisor or boss staring down at them? They just get the job done. They just obey their natures. The castes of the leaf cutter are broken down as follows:
"I'm the queen." ""I'm a worker." "I'm a soldier and only we old ladies go to war in the ant world." Then there are the harvesters, the weeders of alien mold, the nursery workers who take care of the babies. Males are rare. The breeders (males) die on their honeymoon night.
10. Mating: "It's time to mate." Now with ants their chemical languages can mean different messages to different species. In one ant language you can say "let's mate" which means "let's fight" in another ant's chemcial code.
11. Death: "I'm dead."
12. Slavemaking: Ants have a signal to use to make slaves of other insects to help them farm and do chores.
The queen is believed to be the communications headquarters for the colony. Without the queen, the colony will die. When the queen sends out her message declaring her royalty, she expects to be fed and groomed. The lead cutter queen lays twenty-seven eggs an hour or about every two minutes. She is licked constantly and information is left on her body as other ants read it they learn of cave-ins, colony health, repairs, food needs, and other population needs. Christians need to check in with Jesus our "ant queen and information source." The reason a church may not be doing well is that its members are not checking in with Jesus in prayer and communication through his Word.
It is interesting how all eggs of the ants are alike. The determination of caste and body shape comes according to the need of the nest. Ants control what type of ant will grow from the egg by how much food it gets and possibly the temperature of the chamber it is in. Only the queen can determine how many males will be made; she stores up male chemicals (sperm) in a certain pouch and uses them as needed. All this information is chemically transmitted and received.
Finally, the "I'm dead" message is interesting. If you drop this chemical message on a wooden dummy the size of an ant, the fake ant will be carried away to the colony's refuse or "cemetery" pile. Even live ants were instantly hauled off to the morgue. It would have to clean off the chemical completely or it would go back to the morgue two or three times more!
Now, the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross produces a smell, an aroma, a fragrance. Isaiah says our sin makes us stink. We need the aroma of the cross of Christ. Ephesians 5:2 says that Jesus "hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour." As humans we need our soul perfumed by the scent of the blood of Jesus. The sacrificed blood of the saviour needs to be applied to our spiritual lives to wash away the stench of sin. If we do not have the fragrance of salvation upon us then the message the angels get upon our death is to throw us into the garbage can of hell. If we have the fragrance of Christ we may enter paradise. Does your soul bear the "sweet smelling savour" of Jesus?