Jelly, jelly so fine

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The invisible stuff

I was reading about fire ants the other day. Fascinating. They form living rafts in treacherous high waters and intermittently switch places with each other so that they don't drown. The survival of the queen and future colony is paramount to the ant. The individual will often sublimate and sacrifice their life for the whole.

These huge colonies travel on the water after floods and tropical storms. They are an engineering marvel.
Kelly Loftin, an entomologist and professor at the University of Arkansas, told the Washington Post the raft building exercise is a communal one designed to keep the colony’s queen and young safe.
The queen is kept safe in the middle of that raft,” he added. “The workers are keeping the eggs and the small larvae safe from the water and oftentimes they’re doing that by holding them in their mouth.”
The ants trapped underwater on the bottom side of the raft collect bubbles to raise up the raft so it can float, Loftin said, but the ants constantly switch positions, so that no ant remains submerged in the water for long.
I have a continual red ant problem at my home. I was bit several times last year and the painful bite of multiple fire ant bites on my foot was akin to getting hit with a sledge hammer. Excruciating for several weeks.

We typically forego poisons or insecticides but I put an ant bait out the other day. The bait, which looks like food, was carried to the queen. The next morning the mound was strewn with a red paste of ant parts. Felt bad for my complicity in the mass murder but it was me or them in the garden.

Curious creatures. How are their complex signals transmitted by the hive mind? We know that ants can communicate by sound, by touch, by emitting pheromone smells and by swapping fluids through their mouths.  But the precise signals to keep a floating a 500,000 insect convoy aloft, with military grade instructions on position swapping, simply boggles me.

I feel kind of bad for killing the ants. And maybe they sent a signal out that I was a schmuck. At coffee yesterday my friend and neighbor Ron asked me if I had a bee problem? Said that they had become very aggressive at his place, would strike without warning.

Went home early yesterday to fix a sprinkler, wearing my zorries. Out of nowhere a long yellow wasp struck the soft flank of my right foot. Incredible pain, all night. Did everything to curtail the agony, ice, Benadryl, cortisone cream. Leslie made a baking soda, aspirin poultice and it seemed to finally do the trick this morning.  Perhaps the fire ants have a protection deal worked out with the wasps and I am currently persona non grata in my region of the insect world? Who knows? And isn't it interesting that my friend gave me the warning on the sting that very same day?

Hive communication is a curious thing. I went to Professor's Joan Maloof's lecture on her new book dealing with old growth forests and she says that the trees are a bit player in the forest ecosystem.

The real action is the fungus, the mounds, the invisible stuff, she talked about the concept of mycelial interconnectivity, everything is connected to everything else in the old growth ecosystem. Perhaps there is a botanical group mind? Look forward to reading the book, which we bought at the talk.

Which made me think back to a book I read decades ago, by the late psychonaut Terrence McKenna with his brother Dennis, under the pseudonym of Oss and Oeric. Been a couple decades but if I remember correctly, they mapped out a big invisible interconnected fungal web over in psilocybin land. Which apparently works on connecting individual parts of the human brain that were heretofore not speaking.

Doctor Rupert Sheldrake took the concept even further, postulating the presence of electrical type "morphogenetic" fields that could transfer knowledge through the ether and change dna without having to go through traditional evolutionary processes.

I was talking on these lines with a friend recently and they said that an experiment was made in which someone performed an act deemed malicious by a crow and that future generations of crows could pick the human miscreant out of a lineup. A fascinating article on crow brains and communication here.

How is information like this transferred? How do ants know when it is time to paddle and time to surf? Beats the hell out of me. People who have explored psychedelic states of consciousness will tell you that there is definitely some arcane transmission occurring. Have seen multiple examples real time personally that I won't bore you with.

The late science fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon wrote an epic and groundbreaking novel called More than Human. This book introduced the concept of the human hive mind, which he named Homo Gestalt. Wordless communication. Perhaps we could pick up a thing or two from our friends the ants?

Fire ants build Eiffel Towers out of their own bodies.


Anonymous said...

My Aunt and Uncle and their four children were missionaries in Malawi for over ten years. On one of their furloughs they came to visit us. My uncle told a story of when the army ants moved through their village, while migrating, all of the human residents would move out. On one such occasion, everyone left, except for the village drunk, who had drunken too much banana beer and passed out on his porch. The next morning when the villagers returned they found the fully clothed skeleton of said village drunk. MH

Blue Heron said...

Like the bad company that will eat you out of house and home.

Anonymous said...

Interesting story of a home grown Messiah back in the 1950s. His nom de guerre was Krishna Venta and gathered a following in Box Canyon, at the end of the San Fernando Valley. Like most gurus he came from a typically wayward background of lapsed child support, that he kind of elevated himself above and moved on to better things (Babylonian type beard and walked with a staff, new, equally holy wife). But also like most holy men he fell into the bad habit of procuring the wives of his male followers, and then booting the men out of the commune, ala David Koresh in Waco.

Venta's commune had one profound trait and that was their fire fighting ability. They would always be the first on the scene in wildfire season and became seasoned veterans.

But what struck me as quite futuristic about their attitude towards insect life was to
FEED the varmints OUTSIDE the homes so as to keep them from invading. No problem with ants cuz they were well fed in the yard.

As for Venta's career path, his hubris came back to bite him big time, as a pair of
the jilted ex-parishioners decided they had had enough of Venta's stealing their wives and fitted themselves with enough dynamite to end the party, when they knocked on his holiness' door. The explosion was so great that the garages opposite the house were destroyed, as well as Venta and his wife.

The moral of the story is if you are going to do the guru thing, lay off the babes.

Blue Heron said...

Great comment, thank you.

Anonymous said...


Venta had a gambling habit and first came to the press's notice when he won a big
trifecta or something at a dog track in Colorado, but more often lost big time in Vegas, blowing the commune's begged for funds.

It seems Venta's wife had been at the new ashram they started in Alaska when the
foul deed, or vengeance, happened and was NOT part of the body count, which was about 9, including the cuckolded pair. She carried on with the enterprise, rebuilding, but the fun was gone. By the mid 1960s the commune ceased to exist.

Also Charlie Manson attempted to take Venta's place in the readymade 'family' later on, but was run off to form his own 'Eden' at Spahn Ranch. Also a couple of Venta's followers ended up with Jim Jones and found their own kool aid acid test.

[To be truthful, yes I have a 'six degrees of separation' from Manson, since he had
the habit of kissing all females that came to the ranch. A girl I later kissed passionately had gone with friends to collect a debt from Charlie and had one planted on her. Not unlike 'I danced with a girl who danced with a man who danced with a girl who danced with the Prince of Wales!']

Anonymous said...

Strange little world, my grandfather was a juror for the Tate/La Bianca murder trial. Had my photo with G-pops and my brother in Life Magazine. MH

Blue Heron said...

And a long time Falbrookian and friend, the late Frank Patchett, was one of the LAPD lieutenants that brought the family in.

Anonymous said...

The net of heaven casts wide, and no one slips through.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the concept of homo gestalt,it's been called silent
knowledge. Animals have it, humans, for the most part, have lost it.

Ellis Ellison said...

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