Tiny things

Some of the most fascinating things in nature are so tiny they could easily be overlooked.

Take pavement ants, for instance. The common name comes from the fact that colonies of pavement ants usually make their homes in the cracks of pavement. Here on the farm, these ants nest in the soil where they dig down and push out the dirt, producing small mounts on the surface characterized by a “dirt crater” at the opening.

The fascinating thing is that these ants can tell when a big storm is coming. To keep the rain runoff from flooding their nests, they build up the walls much higher than normal. I had read this a while back, and checked the mounds after almost a week of rain where we got a whopping total of 6-1/2 inches(!!) Sure enough, all of the ant mounds were built higher.

A 2010 article in the Journal of Neurophysiology reports an almost unbelievable sensitivity in ant antennae that allows them to sense minute changes in temperature and humidity at 0.2 second time intervals. This would certainly assist the ants in detecting looming weather fronts. Humans can ‘smell’ rain, and we can detect gross temperature changes that almost always accompany rain, but to be able to detect humidity and micro-scale temperature changes would give the ants a real advantage in forecasting.

As a naturalist, I need to always remember to slow down so as not to miss the tiny miracles!


4 thoughts on “Tiny things

  1. Very interesting. I remember as a kid being fascinated with the ants building prowess. I always wondered why they built those mounds, now I know.

    • I learned about pavement ants while working on my article about animals (and insects) having the ability to predict severe weather. Some of the most amazing creatures in nature are the smallest.

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