Yesterday, I spent the whole day playing videogames. In the dark, I saw a cockroach swiftly crossing the room, and I almost missed it, but a shoe I had laying around was able to smash the damn thing. Cockroaches get no sympathy from me, they are the only creature I dislike more than mosquitoes.
But I was busy playing videogames, so I couldn’t be arsed to pick up the cadaver right away. I had neglected cleaning the house long enough, it could wait a little bit longer. I keep my place reasonably clean, mind you, but one week per month I find myself procrastinating everything and the dust piles up.
When I was done playing, I decided I’d pick up the corpse, only to find that it was missing. And not just that, there was a busy line of tiny ants all over the floor and going under the couch. Moments later, the cockroach crawled from under it, slowly, as it was missing one leg, that laid about a feet away from the scene.
The cockroach was still alive, but it couldn’t really move. Half a dozen ants walked around it, tinkering, poking it. It was like they knew this cockroach was done for. They didn’t fear the significantly larger creature, and slowly, they grabbed onto the antenna and pulled, to no avail, as if trying to measure the weight.
Certainly, they needed help, and it didn’t take long before more ants came over to help out. The trail of ants walking through my house was like a busy street now, as more ants were summoned to the job. I noticed a couple of ants on the way found the missing leg of the cockroach, and surrounded it, and started pulling. A third ant joined them, but just stood on two legs and waved its front legs, I assume directing the other two.
My eyes went back to the cockroach. There were about twenty ants around it now. Some climbed on top of it, the others walked around it, pulling the legs, messing around to figure out how they were getting that thing out of here (which is fine by me, by the way). The cockroach tried to squirm out of it, and almost succeeded to escape, except I bashed it again with the shoe, because my money was on the ants.
With its energy fading, life depleting, the cockroach found it harder and harder to resist the inevitable. It gathered strength and shook a leg whenever the ants tried pulling it, but the ants kept coming back, and coming back with reinforcements. I just watched, mesmerized, marveled by the engineering feat of the ants.
Now that more ants were here, they finally had enough folks to carry the missing leg out of the scene more swiftly, so I watched a team (because that’s the only word that can accurately describe their organization) of ants quickly take it away through the path that the ants had instinctively created.
Back at the site, I tell you no lie, there were about sixty ants around the cockroach, and more on the way. They still couldn’t lift it, but you could tell they were determined. Sadly, I was too tired, so I eventually couldn’t stay awake any longer to watch it unfold further.
The next morning, the cockroach was still there, but it was dead now, and it had significantly less ants around now that they were all distracted with a bird that apparently died on my doorstep. One thing that was interesting, though, was that the ants had learned a lesson from the sole leg they had taken away: body parts weigh less.
The cockroach was now missing most its legs. The ants figured out that it was much better to tear the cockroach apart and bring it out piece by piece. Now if that’s not engineering, I don’t know what is. It’s a bit sadistic, yes, but it nearly brought a tear of pride to my eye. Nature is so fucking amazing.