All posts tagged ants

Credit Marjaree Mason Center – CC-BY-SA

Here is the list of the ten posts on Green Comet that got the most visits in 2018.

1. Spanking for Love

Once again Green Comet seems to be a gateway for people who want to learn about spanking their women. Humans are funny little things, aren’t they?

2. Bipedal – The Savanna Theory

Judging from the pattern of hits, I’m guessing that a lot of children find this post after getting a school assignment.

3. Home Page
This makes sense, since it’s the landing page for the site.

4. Ants in the Devil’s Garden

It’s a fascinating story, so I’m not surprised at the interest in it. It’s interesting to speculate about the search parameters that led here. There are some good comments, too.

5. Most Unpleasant Sounds

Once again, how do people end up here? What is the interest in unpleasant sounds?


This is gratifying. Since the purpose of the Green Comet website is to provide a home on the internet for the Green Comet trilogy, I am pleased that so many people go to the downloads page. In fact, you should do that as soon as you finish reading this post. Download everything. It’s free.

7. Bipedal – The Aquatic Ape Theory

This one is probably linked to #2. They are closely related ideas.

Credit Craig Sunter – CC-BY

8. Cirrus Homogenitus

Everyone loves clouds, and this one is probably particularly interesting because it’s one of the rare new ones designated by the World Meteorological Organization in their International Cloud Atlas.

Photo credit – Ross Cooper

9. Altocumulus Lenticularis

More clouds, and these ones are popular for their striking appearance and their counter-intuitive behavior.

10. Altocumulus Castellanus

More clouds, and again very distinctive in their appearance.

So, that was 2018. I think I’m safe in predicting that the list for 2019 will be similar.


Credit Marjaree Mason Center – CC-BY-SA

Here are the ten most viewed posts of 2017, not including permanent site components such as the home page, Downloads, Welcome, etc. Once again it seems I’ve become the Internet gateway for people wondering about spanking their wives.

1. Spanking for Love

What is it with spanking? This post has just over twice as many views as the second one.

2. Bipedal – The Savanna Theory

The interest in this continues. It spikes at the same times each year. School assignments?

3. Ants in the Devil’s Garden

After a big drop-off from #2, people seem to love these orchardist ants.

4. Bipedal – The Aquatic Ape Theory

The curve flattens from here on down. This one is probably spillover from #2.

5. Altocumulus Castellanus

The only Cloud of the Day in the top ten. That surprises me. And I wonder why this one in particular.

6. Collective Nouns

A perennial favorite, and a favorite of mine. Murders and murmurations.

7. Most Unpleasant Sounds

This one also surprises me. A quirky little list.

8. 15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just point them at this and not have to deal with them over and over?

9. Milankovitch Cycles – Obliquity

The only top ten post that I actually wrote this year. Part of a demanding series.

10. Microsculpture – The Insect Portraits of Levon Biss

Oh, good. I’m glad the list includes a tribute to beauty and hard work.

So, that was 2017. What are the odds that spanking will be again in 2018?


All pictures credit - Bart Bouricius

All pictures credit – Bart Bouricius

Earlier this year I posted a story about ants in the Devil’s Garden, which drew a little interest. One of the commenters was Bart Bouricius, who has spent several years working in the western Amazon. Bart has seen those orchards of Duroia hirsuta, and has sent along some pictures he took there. He also passed along some knowledge about a local forest god, Chullachaki, who disciplines people who misuse the forest. Bart describes the feeling of finding one of these sites as strange; looking cultivated, but with no trails or other human sign. You can see his original comments under the original story.

Here are the pictures, some showing the domatia, where the ants make their home.

“Partly it feels strange because of the context of finding such a place in a remote mature forest with no trails going to it.” – Bart Bouricius

You can tap for a slide show of larger images.


lemonantScientists are still making novel discoveries in the Amazon jungle. There’s still plenty to learn, even about ants. Two species of ant discovered recently have evolved in intriguing ways. The first species is interesting for its horticultural practises.

There are areas in Amazonia where almost nothing grows except one species of tree, Duroia hirsuta. It’s much shorter than surrounding trees, being only a few meters tall. These strange patches, as much as a few hundred meters wide, look like orchards. They look as if someone has cleared the forest and planted this one type of tree.

devilsgarden2The local people know they didn’t do it and they didn’t see anyone else do it. The effect is apparently so spooky that local legends call the sites devil’s gardens, attributing their existence to an evil spirit. It’s not evil spirits, though, but ants that are responsible for the devil’s gardens. A species of ant called Myrmelaschista schumanni lives in the hollow stems of the D. hirsuta trees and they destroy all the competition. They rely on their host trees for shelter and food and they take extreme measures to protect them.

Their strategy is very successful. Some of the oldest gardens are calculated to be over 800 years old. The millions of worker ants kill the unwanted plants by injecting formic acid into their leaves. The researchers showed it was the ants by planting other species of trees and then protecting some and not others. The unprotected ones started to die within a day while the protected ones survived. This quashed the competing hypothesis which held that the D. hirsuta was inhibiting the growth of other plants by releasing chemicals.

The other ant species (Cephalotes atratus) is interesting because of its gliding ability, even though it doesn’t have wings.

The research in this case was on mosquitoes and the researchers were thirty meters up in the forest canopy waiting to get bitten. Ants, going about their normal business, encountered the humans and naturally attacked to protect their territory. When they were brushed off, instead of just falling they were seen to glide back to the tree trunk. They might bounce off once but they would glide back in again and most of the ants would get back safely to the tree. The researchers concluded that the ants were using their flared heads to glide.

gliding-antAnts join the list of species capable of wingless flight. Like flying squirrels, lizards, frogs and snakes, these ants have evolved the ability to maneuver in the air even without wings.