Zee Spencer

The Proud Ants

Once upon a time there was an ant colony. It wasn't a very big colony, but it had the best hunters, builders, and nurses for miles around. For many seasons, the colony prospered.

The builders dug out barracks for the hunters, nurseries for the nurses, and dormitories for themselves. They dug stores for the food, which were soon overflowing with the hunters spoils. The nurses raised strong children who swelled the ranks of the colony, making it stronger than ever.

One day, the weather turned cooler. The hunters couldn't find as much food as before. Soon the food they brought back was not enough to feed the colony, so the Queen opened up the food reserves.

As winter grew longer the ants became afraid they would run out of food before spring. The leaders of the castes, believing their own caste to be most important, began to dissent.

"My Queen! We are the builders. We built this strong home! You must give us more food or we will all starve, and then who will prevent the tunnels from collapsing upon us and killing us all?"

"Don't listen to them!" snapped the leader of the hunters. "We are the ones who found and brought the food! We deserve more food, or who will find food when spring comes?"

"Oh dear!" moaned the leader of the nurses. "Our poor children! How will we protect them and teach them to be strong? Our entire colony will die out if we lose our children We must have a larger share of the food!"

The Queen was silent. She could see a seed of hate being planted in the hearts of the formerly close brothers. Seeking to be fair and show her respect for their leadership, she decreed:

"Every caste will be given food, according to the amount of ants in it. It is up to you, the caste leaders, to choose who to feed to make it through the winter."

The leaders were angry. "You are weak!" declared the hunter. "You are not strong enough to lead us!"

"You are unstable!" gasped the builder, "You lack the foundations to support us!"

"You are foolish!" said the nurse, "You are not wise enough to rule us!"

But the Queen refused to relent.

Secretly, the leaders began to plot. Each believed their caste was strong enough to survive on it's own, and so they decided that come spring time, they would found their own colonies.

After a harsh winter, they set their plans in motion. Each leader left the colony; taking the best of their caste with them and leaving the young, infirm, and elderly.

The Queen was sad to see her formerly great colony torn apart, but resolved to make the best of it. She gathered all who remained together into the great hall.

"My people," she began, "we have faced a harsh winter. We have been betrayed by those we entrusted, and we have difficult days ahead of us. From now on, in order to build respect between our castes, we will live together in towns of mixed skills. Builders with nurses, nurses with hunters, and hunters with builders. All food gathered by a town shall be theirs and their leaders shall decide how to split it when the winter comes again."

Murmurs ran through the crowd "But those dirty hunters are who got us into this mess in the first place!" shouted an elderly builder. "I don't want to share my food with them!"

"Then you can find your own food on the surface and live on your own. But you will no longer be given food from our hunters or care from our nurses." The old builder was silent.

"Fine." He grouched. "I'll share my room. For now."

As the summer went on, the Queens colony grew stronger. Though much of the wisdom of the experts had been lost, they were able to collect food, keep their tunnels from collapsing, and rear their young. Slowly, the different castes grew to respect each other, and enjoy living with one another.

As the summer slowly changed to fall three weak, strange ants came to the colony to beg audience with the Queen.

"Please," the first begged, "I come from the colony of builders. We are in need of aid. We built the most beautiful colony, with deep and strong tunnels, but we were unable to find enough food to feed our children, and many of our strongest builders are now unable to walk. Please, give us food so that we may survive!"

"No!" the second interjected, "I am from the colony of hunters. We found much food, and stored it for the winter; but the tunnels to our storehouses have collapsed and we are starving. Give us the food instead!"

"But Queen!" the third cried, "I am from the colony of nurses. We have many strong young children to feed, but we have been unable to store enough food for winter because we cannot build storehouses to put them! We must have the extra food so our children can live on!"

The three began to quarrel amongst themselves again, pleading their cases and shouting down their former brothers. The Queen was infuriated by their pettiness, but moved by their plights.

"Silence!" she declared "You nurses have many strong young ants, go to the hunters and dig out their stores. Go to the builders and seek their wisdom to guide you in reinforcing the hunters tunnels and building your own store rooms. Hunters, give part of your food to the nurses for digging your tunnels and part to the builders for their help in reinforcing them."

The three ants were shocked by this suggestion. "Give up our food?!" the hunter replied. "Never!"

"Help those selfish hunters?" shouted the builder. "I'd rather die!"

"Our children are strong," declared the nurse. "We will make do without their help."

And so they left. After another harsh winter, the queen sent scouts to find the colonies of her former friends. At the hunters colony, all was in ruins; abandoned, but with inaccessible storehouses full of food. The builders colony had become a beautiful tomb, filled with the dead. The nurses had survived, but barely. All of the elders had been lost, and they were quibbling amongst themselves.

The Queen, not being one to pass up an opportunity, dug out the store houses of the hunters; offered sanctuary to the remaining nurses if they would live by her rules; and formed a second colony in the builders majestic ruins.

Respect those who are different, or starve in the winter.

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