Human Culture and Ants
Culture consists of language, ideas, beliefs, customs, taboos, codes, institutions, tools, techniques, works of art, rituals, ceremonies, and symbols. Every human society has its own particular culture, or sociocultural system. Variation among cultures is attributable to such factors as differing physical habitats and resources; the range of possibilities inherent in areas such as language, ritual, and social organization; and historical phenomena such as the development of links with other cultures. An individual's attitudes, values, ideals, and beliefs are greatly influenced by the culture (or cultures) in which he or she lives.
How does all this relate to ants? With few exceptions, human societies exist in places where ants are a dominant element of our surroundings. We are all aware of ants. Every society has a word of ants. They have influenced human culture in the past and present. Biblical references to the industriousness of ants, the creation stories of the Navajo, and ads that state how an exterminator can destroy "all those colonies of unwanted ants" are but some of the examples of how our interactions with ants may be explored in this area of the Antwiki.
- 1 Books and Literature
- 2 Movies and Television
- 3 Music
- 4 Art
- 5 Photography
- 6 Games and Humour
- 7 Food
- 8 Medicine
- 9 The Law and Ants
- 10 Pest Control
- 11 References
Books and Literature
The amount of literature on ants is extensive, and ranges from proverbs and stories of old to the writings and findings of past and modern day researchers and authors. We have separated this literature into the categories of Non-fiction, Fiction, Quotations and Proverbs, Children's Books and Comics.
- Fiction Books on Ants Tables
Ants are not only a focus for studies and tomes written in the world of academia. They have made their way in the fiction realm and used as characters in storytelling for hundred of years. They can range from antagonistic creatures with dark and mysterious ways, to that of the hero come to save the day. A table has been created of past and modern day fiction books where you can alphabetical sort by Title, Author, Publication Date, Publisher, Language, and Subject Heading. An additional table has been created that features books and additional publications that contain chapters and/or stories featuring ants.
We have provided brief summaries of titles in the Notes sections of the table when available.
- Non-fiction Books on Ants Tables
There are a plethora of non-fiction books on ants, with a wide range of different themes and insights. So much so that we have created a table where you can alphabetical sort books by Title, Author, Publication Date, Publisher, Language, and Subject. An additional table has been created that features academic books and other publications which contain specific chapters relating to ants.
These texts are often written with either the academic or the layman in mind as the audience. We have noted this difference in the comment sections of the table when applicable.
Children and Young Readers
- Children's Books Table
Children have a great fascination with ants. Ants seem to capture the interest and imagination of kids readily and frequently. There are a number of stories that star ants, including those of friendship, mathematics, and adventure to name a few. A table has been made where you can alphabetical sort these books by Title, Author, Publication Date, Publisher, Language, and Subject. We have also provided age and/or reading group levels for titles in the Notes section.
Comic Books and Graphic Novels
Ants have found their way into an additional medium of print: comics! Through pencil and ink drawings ants are brought to life visually to entertain any to all ages. A variety and stories and themes can be found, such as trials and tribulations of ant inspired super heroes and heroines. A handful of fictional tales featuring ants are available in graphic novel and comic book editions.
- An Earth Man on Venus
Published in 1950 by Avon Publications based on the book titled The Radio Man by Ralph Milne Farley, published in 1948. The story features scientist Myles Cabot who, from a freak radio accident, is transmitted from Boston, Massachusetts to the planet Venus. There he encounters sentient beings, including a populace of giant ants.
Created by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby in 1962 and published by Marvel Comics.
By Mario Gully and published by Arcana Studios (2004) and Image Comics (2006). Ant is a series featuring an insect themed super heroine created by the imagination by young Hannah Washington.
Quotations and Proverbs
Ants have also been muses and inspirations for people in expressions of rhyme and reason. The following are works in the forms of proverbs and quotations featuring ants.
- A cocoanut-shell full of water is an ocean to an ant. - Tamil
- An emmet (ant) may work its heart out, but cannot make honey.
- Even an ant is eight spans long as measured by its own hand. - Tamil
- None preaches better than the ant, and she says nothing. - Benjamin Franklin
- What could the ant do if it had the head of a bull? - German
- Ants never sleep. - Ralph Waldo Emerson—Nature. Ch. IV
- While an ant was wandering under the shade of the tree of Phæton, a drop of amber enveloped the tiny insect; thus she, who in life was disregarded, became precious by death. - Martial—Epigrams. Bk. VI. Ep. 15
- Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. - Proverbs. VI. 6.
- The instincts of the ant are very unimportant, considered as the ant’s; but the moment a ray of relation is seen to extend from it to man, and the little drudge is seen to be a monitor, a little body with a mighty heart, then all its habits, even that said to be recently observed, that it never sleeps, become sublime. - Ralph Waldo Emerson 
- From J.W. Hackett. 1968. Haiku Poetry, Volume 4. Japan Publications, Tokyo.
The ants on this cloth
are even carrying off
their own casualties.
shaking the kitten’s paw—
an adventurous ant.
Hardy ant, even
heavily burdened you climb
this sheer garden wall.
The ant stepped on
by a paw of the slinking cat,
just scampers away.
An applecore, just
short of the sea’s surging wash:
- For more, see Haiku.
Movies and Television
"Remember: there are no small parts, only small actors." - Constantin Stanislavski (attributed)
Ants may be the smallest actors out there, but their influence and presence in movies and television is large and, sometimes, predominant.
The number of movies that ants have been a part of span many decades and many genres of film. We have separated these films into the categories of Staring Role, where ants are the feature players; Supporting Cast, where ants may not be the stars, but there is a good chance they steal the show; and Cameo Appearance, where an ant, or a lot of ants, have a small guest staring role that is short, but memorable.
- Staring Role
THEM! (1954, Not Rated)
"None of the ants previously seen by man were more than an inch in length - most considerably under that size. But even the most minute of them have an instinct and talent for industry, social organization, and savagery that makes man look feeble by comparison." - Dr. Harold Medford (Edmund Gwenn) (THEM!, 1954)
One of the most iconic atomic age films from 1950s, THEM! stars an army of mutated ants running amok in the state of New Mexico. However, at first, the people in the area do not know that giant ants are about; they only know there is something out there that is reeking havoc. It is during such an investigation that state troopers find a young girl lost and in a total state of shock. While being treated by some nearby doctors, the little girl snaps out of her stupor and begins to shout repeatedly, “THEM!” It is therefore up to an entomologist, scientists, state troopers, an F.B.I. agent, and the U.S. Army and Air Force to stop these creates from populating and taking over the world.
Antz (1998, rated PG: Parental Guidance Suggested)
The feature character of this movie Z, a one-in-a-million worker ant in the colony who wants more out of life. Z gets his wish in more ways than one: he meets the ant princess, by the name of Bala, travels outside of the ant colony to Insectopia (one of the many picnic set ups located in New York’s Central Park) and back again to the colony to save his fellow ants from a rogue general staging a coup d'étatf. Through Z’s eyes, the audience is taking to many different corners of the ant community: worker ants earning an honest living digging for the colony, the royal court of the queen and her successor, and the soldiers who go out to do battle, in this case against some vicious termites.
A Bug’s Life (1998, rated G: General Audiences)
"I'm lost! Where's the line? It just went away. What do I do? What do I do?" - a worker ant panicking after a leaf falls in front of him in the food line. (A Bug’s Life, 1998)
1998 was a big year for ants. Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar Animation release A Bug's Life. In this story an inventor ant named Flik wants to use his love and knack for inventing gadgets to help the colony as they collect a food offering to appease a gang of marauding grasshoppers. When his good intentions backfire, Flik tells the colony, including the royal ant family of the Queen and Princesses Ada and Dot, that he’s going out in search of warriors to help them defend the colony from the grasshoppers. What he gets is a for-hire traveling circus that includes tumbling pillbugs, gypsy moth, praying mantis illusionist, and clowning caterpillar, ladybug, and stick bug.
Ant-Man (expected 2015)
A well known character in the Marvel Universe or several decades, Ant-Man is getting the live action, feature length film treatment along with such comic heroes as Thor, Iron Man and Captain America. Though he isn’t part man, part ant, he has the ability to shrink himself to particle size and fight evil ... and he may also have the assistance of his own private army of ants.
- Supporting Cast
The Naked Jungle (1954, Not Rated)
"TWO terrible things eat on Charlton Heston in ... Paramount's 'The Naked Jungle,' ... (t)he first of these is vanity and the second is soldier ants." - Bosley Crowther, New York Times
Ants are the antagonistic Marabunta who Christopher Leiningen (Charlton Heston) fights to protect his South American plantation and land in this film based on the classic short story “Leiningen Versus the Ants” by Carl Stephenson. The Marabunta are a massive army of soldier ants feeding their way across the jungle in an overwhelming wave of black. Leiningen orders his plantation workers to construct of a moat surrounding the house, hoping to stop the ants. However, the ants are able to across the water by sailing on fallen leaves. The ants are next met with a barrier of fire, yet they keep swarming. Leiningen’s final act to against the Marabunta is to blow up a nearby river dam and sink the ants en masse.
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989, rated PG: Parental Guidance Suggested)
"Benefiting the story’s frail antic tone, this benevolent pismire is called 'Anty'." - Michael Wilmington, Los Angeles Times
This movie may center on the adventures the Szalinski and Thompson children have after getting accidental shrunk by a minimizing ray. However, the heart of the story comes from the camaraderie the kids strike up with a backyard, red-colored ant. With the help of cookie crumbs, "Anty" helps the kids travel through the Szalinski's backyard back to their parents by let them ride along his back. Anty further proves his friendship and courage by throwing himself at a vicious, attacking scorpion to protect the kids.
The Ant Bully (2006, rated PG: Parental Guidance Suggested)
This animated movie, based on John Nickle’s 1998 picture book The Ant Bully, features a young kid named Lucas who gets picked on by the local bully. Frustrated by this menacing schoolyard brute, Lucas takes his anger and fight to the nearby anthill constructed on his front lawn. However, the ants of this story are not helpless against the one they call the Destroyer. In the midst of this ant community, there is an ant wizard named Zoc with a potion he uses to shrink Lucas down to their size. In his new miniature stature, Lucas experiences the life and trials of being an ant and of the colony itself, and learns from them teamwork and tolerance.
- Cameo Appearance
Matinee (1993, rated PG: Parental Guidance Suggested)
"Half Man ... Half Ant ... All Terror!” - tagline from MANT (Matinee, 1993)
The question proposed by the film MANT, the atomic age film-within-the-film of Matinee, is what would happen if an ant were to bite a man while being exposed to radiation at the dentist’s office? That man would become an ant/man hybrid … the Mant. Along with him developing life-size feelers and stretching out his favorite suits, he would continue to grow in size and grow in rage at the community who now fears him. MANT sends up a number of the B-movies from the 1950s era of the kitschy creature features.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008, rated PG-13: Parents Strongly Cautioned)
“... and when all else fails, there's always an attack of giant ants.” - Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle
Dr. Henry “Indiana” Jones Jr. has had many encounters with groups of reptiles and mammals: snakes, bats, cockroaches and rats. In the fourth installment of the action/adventure series, this time around it is a large swarm of giant, flesh eating ants are featured while Indy and company are driving through a South American rain forest while at the same time fighting off the their pursuers.
The Atom Ant Show (aired 1965 - 1968)
NOVA - Lord of the Ants (aired 2008)
"The ants go marching one by one, hurrah, hurrah" - Lyrics from The Ants Go Marching
Music has been said to be the universal language. Like other artistic mediums such as writing, painting and film, ants have been a muse to a number of people.
Below are a number of songs that are either about an ants, a group of ants, or have a lyric or chorus relating to ants. We have also provided a list of musicians and musical groups how have incorporated the "ant" in their name or their image.
Songs and Musical Compositions
Tohpurn u mrjun′e (The Dragonfly and the Ant) (n.d.)
- A ballet
- Composed by Stepan Lusikian, an Armenian composer and pianist
"Fugue for Ants" (1954)
- An original piece written for the 1954 science fiction film THEM!. Sadly, this particular piece did not make it into the final cut of the film's soundtrack.
- Composed by Bronislaw Kaper, an American composer born in Poland
"High Hopes" (1959)
- Winner of the 1959 Academy Award for Music (Song) from the film A Hole in the Head.
- Music by James Van Heusen
- Lyrics by Sammy Cahn
- Performed by Frank Sinatra
"Ants Marching" (1994)
- Track 7 from the album Under the Table and Dreaming
- Performed by Dave Matthews Band
"Eight Pieces from the Sonoran Desert" (1997)
- This musical compositional features a plethora of sounds from the natural world, including ants
- Composed by Richard Lerman, an American composer
The Cricket Recovers (2005)
- An opera that features the animal and insect characters from Dutch writer Toon Tellegen's stories, including an ant and an elephant
- Composed by Richard Ayres, an English composer
Musicians and Musical Groups
Adam and the Ants
Alien Ant Farm
The Hungry Ants
This is a large category that includes original art, scientific art, paintings, drawings, figures of ants on art objects and sculpture.
There are a number stamps worldwide with images of ants. Many of these stamps are beautifully designed.
United Kingdom - the Red Barbed ant from the Royal Mail's Action for Species series. Image of the Royal Mail postage stamp of the Red Barbed ant from McCarthy, Michael. (12 April 2008). "Stamps showcase the beauty of our endangered butterflies and beetles." The Independent. Retrieved from http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/this-britain/stamps-showcase-the-beauty-of-our--endangered-butterflies-and-beetles-808159.html
In the United States it is possible to custom make an official stamp with images of choice including ants.
There are many interesting ant designs on T-shirts, many are cartoon designs while others depict ants with accurate morphological detail.
- Clip Art
There is a wide selection of clip art that is copyright free showing ants as the main topic.
- M. C. Escher
Möbius Strip II (Red Ants)
- Salvador Dalí
In Dali’s work ants represent decay, decomposition and change.
Salvador Dalí (Spanish, 1904-1989). Ants, 1929. Gouache, ink and collage. 11.5 x 16.4 cm (4 1/2 x 6 7/16 in.). H. Amigorena Collection, Paris. Photo: Beatrice Hatala.
Montage images through a microscope
Take a series of source image and compile them into a single composite image with greater depth of field.
Montage images using a camera on a stand
The stand can be a vertical copy stand or a tripod. Both horizontal and vertical orientations can be set up. One advantage of this technique is that a camera can be attached directly and excellent images can be achieved without needing a microscope. Images can be stacked, or a single image taken with maximum depth of field. Either flashes or fixed lighting can be used. Light Emitting Diodes or LED lights provide an excellent light source.
Cameras with a utility driver allow direct configuration and taking of photos via a computer. Av priority settings work well with fixed LED lighting. After setting the ISO value, the shutter will stay open until the correct amount of light reaches the specimen. The fixed tripod or camera stand allows for a slow shutter speed.
Using a DSLR camera with a macro lens provides stunning results.
Photos of ants in the field
Photos of ants indoors
Videos of ants
Games and Humour
"What is this? A center for ants?" - Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) in reference to a scale model. (Zoolander, 2001)
- Toys and Board Games
Ants in the Pants (Hasbro)
Regions where ants may be considered a delicacy
Thailand is exceptional among SE Asian countries for the widespread use of ants (and other insects) as food. Two species are popular in the northern and eastern parts:
During a few months of the year, both sexual brood as well as adult queens and males are sold on local markets. These are mixed with spices and herbs, while queen larvae are included in omelets and soup.
Nutritional value of ants as food
Insects are lower in fat and higher in protein (7-21 grams of protein per 100 grams of edible insects) than beef, pork or chicken.
Bhotwate & Kumar (2020) report that selected rural and tribal groups within India mash live workers with salt, red chillies and mustard oil, and eat them with rice. They are reported to prevent gastritis and provide nutritive value.
Menus listing ants
- Babarinde, S.A., Mvumi, B.M., Babarinde, G.O., Manditsera, F.A., Akande, T.O., Adepoju, A.A. 2020. Insects in food and feed systems in sub-Saharan Africa: the untapped potentials. International Journal of Tropical Insect Science. (doi:10.1007/s42690-020-00305-6).
- Chakravorty, J., Ghosh, S., Megu, K., Jung, C., Meyer-Rochow, V.B. 2016. Nutritional and anti-nutritional composition of Oecophylla smaragdina (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) and Odontotermes sp. (Isoptera: Termitidae): Two preferred edible insects of Arunachal Pradesh, India. Journal of Asia-Pacific Entomology 19, 711–720 (doi:10.1016/j.aspen.2016.07.001).
- Hanboonsong Y, Jamjanya T & Durst P (2013) Six-legged livestock: edible insect farming, collection and marketing in Thailand. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations regional office for Asia and the Pacific, Bangkok.
- Offenberg J & Wiwatwitaya D (2010) Sustainable weaver ant (Oecophylla smaragdina) farming: Harvest yields and effects on worker density. Asian Myrmecology 3: 55-62
- Sribandit W, Wiwatwitaya D, Suksard S & Offenberg J (2008) The importance of weaver ant (Oecophylla smaragdina Fabricius) harvest to a local community in Northeastern Thailand. Asian Myrmecology 2:129–38
- Thangjam, R., Kadam, V., Ningthoujam, K., Sorokhaibam, M. 2020. A review on edible insects and their utilization in Northeastern Himalaya. Journal of Entomology and Zoology Studies 8(3) 1309-1318.
- Van Huis A, Van Itterbeeck J, Klunder H, Mertens E, Halloran A, Muir G & Vantomme P (2013) Edible insects: Future prospects for food and feed security. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome.
- Van Itterbeeck J, Sivongxay N, Praxaysombath B & van Huis A (2014) Indigenous knowledge of the edible Weaver ant Oecophylla smaragdina from the Vientiane Plain, Lao PDR. Ethnobiology Letters 5: 4-12
- Bites and stings
- Medicinal value
- Medical cases involving ants
The Law and Ants
- Quarantine regulations
- Keeping ants in captivity and sending ants to others
- Legal disputes involving ants
- Forensic medicine
- Ants as Pests
- Invasive Ants
- Ants that control other pests (Ants as predators of forest pests; Ants to control citrus pests in China)
- For a review of ants as pest control agents, see Offenberg, J. 2015.
- Ant. The Grand Comics Database. The Grand Comics Database Project, n.d. Web. Retrieved from http://www.comics.org/series/29820/.
- Christy, Robert, comp. Proverbs, Maxims and Phrases of All Ages. New York, London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1887; Bartleby.com, 2010. www.bartleby.com/89/54.html. (January 26, 2013)
- Curiosities in Proverbs, comp. by Dwight Edwards Marvin. New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1916; Bartleby.com, 2012. www.bartleby.com/346/21.html#125. April 4, 2013.
- Hoyt’s New Cyclopedia of Practical Quotations. New York, London: Funk & Wagnalls company, 1922; Bartleby.com, 2009. www.bartleby.com/78/34. April 4, 2013.
- Forty Thousand Quotations: Prose and Poetical, comp. by Charles Noel Douglas. New York: Halcyon House, 1917; Bartleby.com, 2012. www.bartleby.com/348/60. April 4, 2013.
- A.W. (1954, June 17). "Them (1954) Warner Brothers Chiller at Paramount" [Review of the movie THEM!]. New York Times. Retrieved from http://movies.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=950CEED71431E43ABC4F52DFB066838F649EDE
- Sight and sound. "Antz" [Review on the film Antz]. (1998 December). pp. 41-42. In British Film Institute, & British Institute of Adult Education. (n.d.). Sight and sound. [London: British Film Institute].) 12:7, 41-42.
- Stack, Peter. (1998 November 25). "Bug's" Has Legs/Cute insect adventure a visual delight [Review of the movie A Bug's Life]. San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved from http://www.sfgate.com/movies/article/Bug-s-Has-Legs-Cute-insect-adventure-a-visual-2976395.php
- Spitznagel, Eric. (2010, August 12) "Scott Pilgrim Director Edgar Wright Sees No Difference Between Video Games and Heroin." [Interview with Edgar Wright]. Vanity Fair. Retrieved from http://www.vanityfair.com/online/oscars/2010/08/scott-pilgrim-director-edgar-wright-sees-no-difference-between-video-games-and-heroin
- Crowther, Bosley. (1954, April 3). Three Films Arrive; Naked Jungle' Opens At the Mayfair Globe Shows Western of Civil War Time" [Review of the movie The Naked Jungle]. New York Times. Retrieved from http://movies.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=9F06E6DD173FE23BBC4B53DFB266838F649EDE
- AFI Catalog of Feature Films. (n.d.). The Naked Jungle [Data file]. Retrieved from http://www.afi.com/members/catalog/DetailView.aspx?s=&Movie=51283
- Wilmington, Michael. (1989, June 23). Los Angeles Times, pp. 12. In Film review annual. (1982). Englewood, NJ: J.S. Ozer. 597-598.
- Newman, Kim. (1990, February). Monthly Film Bulletin, pp. 41. In Film review annual. (1982). Englewood, NJ: J.S. Ozer. 598-599.
- Scott, A.O. (July 28, 2006) ‘The Ant Bully,’ in Which the Bugs Sound Like Movie Stars. New York Times. Retrieved from http://movies.nytimes.com/2006/07/28/movies/28ant.html
- Kempley, Rita. (1993, January 29). “Movies; 'Matinee': In the Glow of the Atomic Age." The Washington Post. Retrieved from http://www.lexisnexis.com/hottopics/lnacademic
- LaSalle, Mick. (2008, May 22). 'Indiana Jones' whips up the action. San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved from http://www.sfgate.com/movies/article/Indiana-Jones-whips-up-the-action-3283104.php
- Svetlana Sarkisyan. "Lusikian, Stepan". Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press. Web. 22 Jan. 2013. Retrieved from http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/subscriber/article/grove/music/43434
- Christopher Palmer and Randall D. Larson. "Kaper, Bronislaw." Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press. Web. 22 Jan. 2013. Retrieved from http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/subscriber/article/grove/music/14687
- The Official Academy Awards Database. (n.d.). High Hopes. [Data]. Retrieved from http://awardsdatabase.oscars.org/ampas_awards/DisplayMain.jsp?curTime=1366086838104
- Dave Matthews Band (1994). Ants Marching. On Under the table and dreaming [sound recording]. New York, NY: RCA.
- Arthur J. Sabatini. "Lerman, Richard." Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press. Web. 22 Jan. 2013. Retrieved from http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/subscriber/article/grove/music/51622
- Christopher Fox. "Ayres, Richard." Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press. Web. 22 Jan. 2013. Retrieved from http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/subscriber/article/grove/music/2061629
- Bhowate, S., Kumar, P. 2020. Ethnoentomological practices by tribes and rurals of Satpura plateau of Madhya Pradesh, India. Journal of Entomology and Zoology Studies 8(2): 833-837.
- Offenberg, J. 2015. Ants as tools in sustainable agriculture. Journal of Applied Ecology 52: 1197-1205 (doi:10.1111/1365-2664.12496).