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ants, the emmets, or the formicans, whose
singular civilisation and mode of life have
been observed with curiosity by
naturalists in all ages, and more especially by
Huber, a German philosopher of the last
century, who devoted the best part of his
life to the study. Huber is their historian
and philosopher, and all subsequent
inquirers but confirm his facts and strengthen
his opinions.

One noticeable thing about the ants
though it is not peculiar to them, but is
shared with many other creaturesis that
they are utterly insensible of the presence
of mankind. They neither see nor hear
Man, nor are in any way conscious of his
existence, though it is quite evident from
their actions that they are endowed with
the senses of sight and feeling, and
possibly of smell and hearing, and that they
have a means of communicating to one
another their wants and ideas. But man
is utterly beyond their sphere. Even
when he ruthlessly pulls down or otherwise
disturbs them in their haunts, or
levels with the ground the domes of their
cities, they are not aware what or who
their enemy is, though they feel and are
alarmed at the physical force which the
unknown power exercises to their detriment.
If a bulky monster a thousand feet
high, and stout in proportion, were to
walk through Hyde Park, all the human
emmets of Tyburnia and Belgravia would
be aware of his perilous presence, and strive
to get out of his way; but if I or any other
human creature cross the line of march of an
army of formicanswhich I for one have
often donethey take no notice of the
monstrous apparition, which is to them
invisible. They cannot see an inch before
their mandibles, and the great foot of
humanity may tread thousands of them
to death without causing the least alarm in
the multitudes immediately before or
behind the moving mountain that makes
such terrible havoc. But if any one will
take a spade or a stick, and penetrate into
one of their mounds, or domes, the busy
agile community will understand that
there is danger abroad, and the whole
surface thus exposed to the light will
immediately swarm with many thousands of
the little black and brown creatures, all
running hither and thither in the most
palpable alarm, and each bearing a cocoon
bigger than itself, in which a baby emmet
is awaiting the next stage of its development
into maturity. It was formerly believed by
unscientific and careless observers, in modern
as well as ancient times, that these cocoons
were grains of corn, to which in shape as
well as size they bear a great resemblance;
and that the ants, when disturbed, were
not so much alarmed for their lives as for
the safety of their winter provender. But,
as the ants sleep all the winter, and
require no food, another explanation was
required, and science discovered the fact
that this grain-like treasure is no other
than the rising generation of formicans,
and that each adult member of the
community enacts in these seasons of peril the
part of the Roman matron, who considered
children the first objects of her care, and
more valuable than all the treasures and
jewels of the world.

The citizens of this "great and mighty
city," on the top of the hill, who know
nothing of man and his ways, are not, like
the human race, divided into two sexes
but into three. In this respect the ants
resemble the bees, among whom, also, there
are three sexes, or perhaps, more properly
speaking, two sexes; and one, by far the
larger part of the community, which is
sexless and unprolific. Both the males and
females are comparatively few in number;
and during the short period of their heyday
and prime of life, are very much
respected and pampered by the barren and
hard-working majority. The males and
females are the aristocracy of the republic.
Like the lilies of the field, "they toil not,
neither do they spin." They enjoy a short
life and a merry one; are the pets and
favourites of the multitudes during their
short appointed time; are endowed with
many privileges and marks of honour;
until they have done all that Nature
intended they should do, when they are
solemnly, perhaps reverentially, put to
death, as being of no further use to the
state of Formica. The male aristocrat
possesses four wings; the female possesses
only two, smaller than those of the male,
and loses even these at the end of the period
of maternity; and the mules, neuters,
sexless, nursing, and laborious ants, are
without wings altogether. But though
the male ants doubtless think themselves
very fine with their double set of beautiful
gauze-like wings, they are something like
the jeunesse dorée among men, who can
neither provide for their own subsistence,
nor defend themselves when attacked.
They have neither mandibles nor stings:
consequently, they either die of neglect
when their function is performed, or are
stung to death by the working-classes.