Wednesday, June 22, 2011

My Kids vs Adam Ant

So I have proof here that an invasive species of ant living in North Carolina may have better problem-solving skills than my own children.

Typical of the BBC’s top-notch science reporting is this paragraph that sums up the whole story:
When worker Pachycondyla chinensis ants find very cumbersome snacks, they return to their nest and literally grab another ant in their jaws, carry it over and drop it next to the food.

Though researchers studying the ants aren’t sure how the carried ants – which they describe as “passive” while it is being carried to the food – reorient themselves vis-à-vis their colony and the task at hand once they’re dropped near the big food item, they quickly get to work and can even adjust locations if the researches move the big food item on their own.
Here’s where my kids come in.

I see a mess they’ve made, collective or otherwise. I’d like it cleaned up. First, I ask them to clean it up. I make my expectations clear, and even remind them where the mess is. When I get no response – okay, when I get no response from several requests of cleanup – I bring them to the site of said mess and, believe me, they do not arrive passively. Then the command is given onsite.

Unlike the ants, they cannot reorient themselves vis-à-vis anything, let alone the mess that they could clean up in five minutes if they wouldn’t indulge in a minimum fifteen minutes of fussing about not wanting to do the task at hand. Even when I recruit a helper – either because the mess is a collective one or I believe, foolishly, that many hands will make light work – the help a) does not arrive passively and b) cannot reorient itself to the task at hand. More fussing and delay ensues.

Meanwhile, the ants are all busy, happily at work carving up a cockroach too big for one of them to carry on their own, secure in the fact that they’re collectively helping out the colony and getting their chores done in a way that might leave them time to play with their little dolls before it’s time to turn in for the night.

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