No. 18 Farming Aphids – An Ant’s guide

(Written by a Person)

Ants and Aphids

The difference between an Ant and an Aphid is tiny, but in that tiny difference lies a world of pain.

Ants farm Aphids. Chemicals secreted onto the Ants’ tiny little feet mark their territory and sedate and pacify entire colonies of aphids. In this way Ants keep their Aphids close, as a ready source of nourishment. Ants feed on Aphids.

In addition to the use of chemical tranquilisers, Ants have developed an arsenal of tools and techniques with which to subdue their Aphids, including physical and chemical mutilation and even food deprivation.

The complex relationship between Ants and their Aphids makes a fascinating study.


Selecting the Aphid

Ants select their Aphids very carefully. There are typically six to eight interviews, not including the third-party recruiter’s filtering interview, before an Aphid is invited to join the Colony. This is part of the indoctrination process. An Aphid applies to join a Colony of their own free will. There is no force involved. The Aphid submits themselves to a protracted interview process from which they could be ejected at any moment. This serves to develop both a degree of impostor syndrome in the applicant, plus an equal and opposite sense of entitlement. Once the interview process is over, the successful candidate dumps the impostor syndrome and grabs hold of the sense of entitlement with both hands. From this moment they have become willing participants in their own indentured servitude. The Aphid is therefore complicit in their own imprisonment. Simple.

The social superiority of Ants

Ants, of course, are little if any better off.  Ants are subject to the constant pressure of unachievable goals which they will all ultimately fail to realise. Upon failure a number of times to achieve the essential goals of an Ant, the Ant will disappear, only to reappear, magically, as an Aphid. This substitution is never mentioned, never discussed.

Until the moment of the transformation however, the Ant occupies a position apparently at the pinnacle of the social hierarchy of the Colony. I say ‘apparently’, because the Ant, all Ants as a matter of fact, are unaware of the existence of the true rulers of the Colony, those few Executives sequestered away in the centre of the complex, invisible to all except the very few senior Ants who serve them directly.

Ants are destined to farm the aphids for their entire lives, sustaining themselves by sucking the honeydew that Aphids secrete from the sphincters of their alimentary canals.

Ants encourage Aphids to secrete the life-sustaining goo by stroking them sensuously with their feelers.

The Colony

The Colony, Executives, Ants and Aphids, is a single, self-sustaining, self-organised, living being, competing savagely with other similar Colonies distinguishable only by their logos and marketing. There is really nothing to choose between Colonies, especially from the point of view of Ant or Aphid (insofar as Ant of Aphid can be said to have a point of view).

So when next you encounter an Ant, busily serving its Colony, have a thought for the mutilated honeydew excreting Aphid it will inevitably, one day become.

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