Excavating an ant colony


42 Responses to “Excavating an ant colony”

  1. zombiebob says:

    Poor Ant-bastard at 2:19… probably thinking some ant-equivalent to “The Horror… The Horror…”

  2. Christopher says:

    Every time I accidentally knock over an anthill (I haven’t purposely knocked one over since I was at least ten) I’m always fascinated by how the ants scurry around and immediately begin rebuilding. I’d think there’d be a moment when they’d stop and say, “DAMN. Thanks, buddy. Do you have any idea how long it took to build that?”

    I also wonder if the comparison to the Great Wall of China isn’t selling the ants short. The Great Wall is an impressive structure, but considering the size of even the largest ant building a structure that could be filled with ten tons of concrete sounds more like the equivalent of building  a Great Wall that really could be seen from space.

    • zarray says:

      Ant New York City?

    • AlexG55 says:

      I was pcurious about this, so I did some back-of-the-envelope calculations. Turns out that the difference in scale (in terms of mass) between this and the Great Wall is about the same as that between an ant and a human:
      Assuming the Great wall is 5 metres wide, 7 metres high, and built of bricks, it weighs 600 million tonnes, or 60 million times the ants’ nest.
      A 60kg human (a reasonable estimate for an average 5th-century-BC Chinese person) is 60 million times the mass of a 1 mg ant…

      • waetherman says:

        I thought for a second you said you were pi-curious, which I suppose is a phase every math major in college goes through…

        What I don’t understand is if they used 10 tons of cement to fill it, and cement is typically about twice as dense as dirt, why do they say that the ants excavated 40 tons of dirt? Seems like it would be more like 5. And that’s not taking in to account the mass of the evaporated water…

  3. When this sort of experiment is done they often used an abandoned colony. I don’t know if they did in this case, but the lack of any visible response by the ants themselves suggests this is an abandoned colony. 

  4. i see an ant version of POLTERGEIST here.  Movie gold.

  5. “truly a wonder of the world”

    and just think those things are everywhere, all around us, under our feet.


  6. Rasputin says:

    I had quite the ant infestation in my yard, and when I finally found the mound they made it turned out it was under my patio. I used a high powered hose to wash it away and darned if those little buggers didn’t make chains out of themselves trying to save the larvae/pupae. They all went down the drain anyway (we all float down here, timmy!).

  7. tomrigid says:

    The “Well of Souls” music was priceless (and creepy).

  8. DreamboatSkanky says:

    Christ, what an ant hole.

  9. jaypee says:

    Aahahahah, nice Look Around You reference.

    Blessed are the ants.  Blants.

  10. Nothing Much says:

    Has to be said … Phase IV.

  11. Chicago_SC says:

    I had an ant farm once; those little Fuckers didn’t grow Shit.

    I said, come on what about some celery, you fuckers don’t farm, plus if i tore your legs off you’d look like snowmen!

  12. Ianto_Jones says:

    Deadant, deadant, deadant deadant DEADant deadant DEADAAAAAANT Deadeadeadeadant.

  13. dustindriver says:


    Maggie, I think I love you.

  14. Allan McCoy says:

    Wasn’t this on boingboing back in Dec, 2008?

  15. dustindriver says:


    Archology: You’re doing it right.

  16. MrsBug says:

    Every time the narrator mentioned some stupendous factoid about this marvel (“they moved 40 tons of earth”), my mind kept adding to the end, “…and we’ve destroyed it.”

    Yeah,  I knows. Science, advancing knowledge, blah blah. My tendency to anthropomorphize everything doesn’t do me any favors.

  17. Marja Erwin says:

    I tried to load the video, twice, but both times it stopped about 1/4 of the way through.

  18. sarah heller says:

    Thanks, Ants.  Thants.

  19. Ito Kagehisa says:

    I couldn’t get the video either (no doubt Boing’d) so I am left wondering:  How the heck do you pump concrete down an anthole?

    If I make ‘crete soupy enough to pass through a straw it’ll harden up about as strong as wet toilet paper.  And what would you use for aggregate?  Talcum powder?

  20. Shai_Hulud says:

    Many ants died to bring us this information.

  21. LinkMan says:

    Technically I think this is a repost.   But the 2008 post has an embedded video that has since been removed so I can’t tell if this is a shorter snippet of the same video or just something similar.

  22. Antinous / Moderator says:

    The Ellinson girl is not impressed.

  23. penguinchris says:

    Would be a cool thing to carefully break apart and then reassemble in a science museum!

    Also, it would be interesting if after pouring the concrete they tried various subterranean imaging techniques (which wouldn’t work with just empty air in there) to get a computer model. Eh, I’m not sure of the state of such techniques except as used in geology where such small scales aren’t typically looked at.

  24. mat catastrophe says:

    There is fundamentally no difference between an ant colony and anything that humanity has ever constructed.

    And, no purpose behind either. It’s just what we do.

  25. Semi relevant, here’s an interesting TED talk about digging up ant colonies:

    One thing that blew my mind when watching it is that queens will mate once and then stay in their chamber laying eggs for up to 20 years laying eggs using the sperm from that initial mating.


  26. caseyweederman says:

    I read the line “Sorry, ants” and thought heh, sants, and then read “Sants”, and then thought “Friggen’ right! <3"

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