Clockwork and Atta

Atta is a harvester type of ant whose colony has one of the most complicated caste system, ie meaning it has a variety of different workers each working towards a different purpose.

Out off nest specialists:

Soldier – the largest ants whose head diameter comes to 3mm. These ants also have the largest fangs and are in charge of defending the colony, they also participate in cutting the crops due to their large jaws.

Forager – these ants are in charge of transporting the harvested crops to the ant hill where they drop it off for the next set of workers to take over. these ants have a head diameter of 2.2mm

Within-nest specialists:

Processors and Disposers – these ants have roughly the same head diameter of 1.4mm and are capable of processing the food bought by the foragers in smaller pieces and also disposing of rubbish inside the nest. They also tend to help out with larvae when there is too large a brood. They are also transporters of the material to the fungi gardens and also to the queen.

Gardener-nurses – these are the smallest ants and they deal with the fungus gardens which are formed from the food brought in by the other ants and also tend to the eggs, pupae and larvae. There head sizes are of 1mm diameter. They also help clean, feed and protect the queen ant.

Queen – The queen is the only ant who can reproduce and is therefore of utmost priority, she is of course the future of the colony and can live from 10-20 years which is very long, am literally quite shocked. She is also the largest in the colony, being something like 700 times larger than the smallest workers.

top row-queens, queen with wings; middle row- 2 gardener nurses, forager, soldier; bottom row- processor and disposer, forager
top row-queens, queen with wings; middle row- 2 gardener nurses, forager, soldier; bottom row- processor and disposer, forager

After researching this vast and almost scary topic I bought a clock from a jumble sale. I then started to disect it, and of course I found similarities between the gos and the different castes of the ants. The major cog which turns most other ones will of course be the queen, it is located at the deepest point of the clock. I also find it interesting to think that the ants are constantly working towards the future of the colony whilst a clock is always moving forward to the future.

inside a clock
inside a clock

There are some major difference that I found between the two concepts however. The main one being that if a single cog is removed from the clock, it will stop functioning, whilst in a colony if a large chunk of the colony are taken away of one specific caste is taken the colony works harder and ants are moved to different castes whilst the ones who are born for the job are made of good use working twice as hard.

However I still see the similarities between clockwork and ant colonies.

Now if only I can relate it back to eugenics and the aryan race.


Author: gordondouglas

Performance artist and curator based in Glasgow, Scotland.

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