myrmecology

I really knew I wanted to be Adam, because Adam was the first man. Ant I chose because, if there’s a nuclear explosion, the ants will survive.   – Adam Ant


Myrmecology: from the greek, myrmex is ant and logos is study. Early myrmecologists thought ant society to be an ideal form of society and sought to find solutions to human problems by studying them.  Their succes in thriving is attributed to their social organization, ability to modify habits, tap resources and defend themselves.

IMG_7234The ant is the subject of this small mixed media panel. It feels unnatural to paint only one. Imagine that she is a worker ant searching for food whereupon finding it she returns to the colony to tell the other worker ants.

Last summer we had ants that found their way to the honey I keep on the table. I followed the trail that came in from a plug on the wall. Not good. All summer I tried to get rid of them. I understand now they communicate with pheromones, sound and touch. I’m wondering should they return, can I annoy them with vibration or odor of some sort.

The ants typically seen by humans are wingless females. They never reproduce. Among other things, their job includes foraging for food, caring for the queen’s offspring, working on the nest, and protecting the community. Ant colonies are headed by the queen, whose function in life is to lay thousands of eggs that will ensure the survival of the colony. Male ants have one main role—to mate with her. After they have performed this function, they die.

I do enjoy learning ants have muscles. Their legs are strong and allow them to run quickly. They are able to lift 20x their own body weight. Ants have 2 stomachs. one holds the food for itself, the other is to be shared with other ants. Crushed ants omits an ‘alarm’ pheromone (they also have ‘propaganda’ pheromones, to confuse enemy ants). An ant brain has about 250,000 brain cells – collectively a colony of 50,000 has the same brain cells as a human brain.

Surprisingly I find this everyday creature to be particularly enjoyable to study and detail. She’s pretty, I have to admit. And the idea of the colony, a queen and her army …intrigues.

Ants symbolize all good things coming with time and effort – working with diligence and with others to forge a life. I get those myrmecologists.

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una campamocha, a praying mantis

From whence arrived the praying mantis?
From outer space, or lost Atlantis?
I glimpse the grim, green metal mug
That masks this pseudo-saintly bug,
Orthopterous, also carnivorous,
And faintly whisper, Lord deliver us.

~Ogden Nash~


Campamocha is Spanish for Praying Mantis. I like the word.

campamocha

La Campamocha, 12 x 12″, collage on panel

After researching this insect, I feel facts and symbolic connections are a bit out of synch. It may be that the symbolic associations are purely visual. I must say though it’s one odd-looking bug. It’s a cousin to the termite and maybe a prototype of the cockroach.

A little more…

  • mantises have compound eyes that give them a binocular field of vision
  • their one ear is on the underside of the belly (similar to a cricket if I recall correctly)
  • its neck is flexible and rotates 180 degrees
  • life span is about 10-12 months
  • spiked forelegs help them hold prey securely
  • it’s considered a predator
  • it’s a carnivore
  • they can fly (they can?!)

In terms of symbology …

  • mantises blend with their environment and becomes invisible to enemies
  • they teach us how to still the outer mind and go within
  • the word Mantis is Greek for prophet or seer
  • it is the oldest symbol of God.

…. could this be why we found this one staring at us from a bottle of wine….

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Since I began working on this insect series I have received emails that include photos of exotic bugs, names and web sites of artists who depict bugs and many interesting reads. I know many of your favorite bugs : cute and ugly. I’ve been visited by a number of insects whom I’m sure wish their presence known (la campamocha en la botella de vino). All the bugs I drew made some personal connect via a friend or were direct. I appreciate it all. If we could learn to respect the smallest of life it would certainly be a better thing all the way around.

The most recent link I received reminded me of the Insect People from the Navajo Creation Myth: Insects in Art and Religion of the American Southwest. 

… enjoy…the bugs.