Saturday, June 18, 2011

Could an Ant Outrun a Cheetah?

Ever since I was a child, I have been fascinated by ants. I remember spending many summer days observing gigantic colonies. I do not know the name of the species that I watched, but they were maybe 1/8" of an inch and could clearly be seen with the naked eye.

I was very young and I performed questionable experiments that children do before the learn the value of life... even an ant's life. I hate to admit that I once dropped a red ant into a black ant colony to see what would happen. The results were not good for the single red ant who was quickly overwhelmed. More than a few ants were vaporized with a death beam created from a magnifying glass and the sun's concentrated rays. These days, I relocate spiders and other critters outside when I find them in our house, so at least I have evolved.

I recently found an ant colony in the midst of a mad dash from their home in a garden pot. I don't know what triggered their exodus, but they seemed to be setting speed records. The video below shows how fast the individual ants were moving, including the ones that were carrying larvae in their mandibles. All I had was my iphone so I grabbed this quick video.

This made me wonder how fast ants could run if they could be scaled up to human size, and we ignored the physics of a titanic insect? Several web sites I researched made the calculation of about 53 m.p.h. which is faster than a gazelle, but slower than a cheetah. That is something that I would not like to see in person... even if I had a giant bottle of RAID to hide behind!