Compare and Contrast – Bees and Ants

ONE can hardly believe that this small, ever busy creature each year gathers many million dollars worth of products for man. Say nothing of its inestimable value on the farm and especially in the orchard, where it assists in carrying pollen from blossom to blossom. It is of far greater value to man as a carrier of pollen than it is as a honey gatherer.

The general habits of the bee are fairly well known by all. They live in colonies consisting largely of workers, one female or queen and males or drones. Whenever the number of workers becomes sufficiently large to warrant a division of the colony, a young queen is reared by the workers and just before she matures, the old queen leaves with about half of the workers to establish a new colony. This division of the colony is called swarming. If a hive, box or other acceptable home is not provided soon after the swarm comes out and clusters, it may fly to the woods and establishes itself in a hollow tree where the regular work of honey gathering is continued. This accounts for so many bee-trees in the woods. The bee has been handled by man for ages, but it readily becomes wild when allowed to escape to the woods.

The bee colony offers one of the best examples to show what can be accomplished by united effort where harmony prevails. Certain of the workers gather honey, others are nurses for the queen and young brood in the hive, others guard the hive and repel intruders, and others care for the hive by mending breaks and providing new comb as it is needed. Each knows its work and goes about it without interfering with the work of others. It is one huge assemblage of individuals under one roof where harmony and industry prevail.

Throughout the long, hot summer days the workers are busy from daylight until dark gathering nectar, while at night they force currents of air thru the hive to evaporate the excess water from the nectar. When flowers are not available near the hive they simply fly until they find them, be it one, two or more miles. As long as they are able to gather honey they continue to do so and when they give out they drop in the field and are forgotten, others rushing to take their place. Often when winter is approaching and the store of honey is low the less vigorous ones are cast out from the hive and left to die. If man could learn a few of the lessons which the bee teaches, he would be a better, a more useful and a wiser addition to society.

THE ants are closely related to the bees and are similar to them in many respects. They live in colonies consisting of workers, drones, and a queen. The males or drones appear at swarming time and the workers are divided into various castes—warriors, guards, nurses, etc. Those families of ants, however, which seem to have what approaches real intelligence, far outstrip the bees in many respects. In some cases ants seem to be able to plan and carry out lines of work very much the same as man does. The various stages of human intelligence or races of men from the savage to the intelligent man are in a way similar to the various races of ants. There are ants which live as hunters, others which live as shepherds and still others more highly developed which grow crops either in or near the nest as is the case with the fungus growing ants. This striking similarity between the development of ants and man offers ground for much speculation.

Some ants may be of considerable value to man while others are the source of great annoyance and injury. The tidy housewife usually places the ant in the same category with cockroaches and bed-bugs and the corn growers attribute much of the injury to young corn to the work of the small cornfield ant which acts as a shepherd of the corn root-louse. Ants are usually more destructive by protecting and caring for other pests than by attacking the crop direct.

Ants are as numerous as the stars in the skies and vary in size. They are found from the tropics to the frozen north, in deserts, swamps and in fact, almost any place where plants or animals live. They do not waste time building or manufacturing a complicated nest like wasps and bees, so when food is scare, or for other reasons they need to move they simply “pack up” and migrate. This, together with the fact that they feed on almost every imaginable kind of plant and animal material, accounts in part for the fact that they are the rulers of the insect world.

Extract from: Source: “An Elementary Study of Insects” by Leonard Haseman (2007)

Offline Exercise:

Complete the graphic organizer below comparing and contrasting bees and ants.