We’ve all dealt with the surplus of time we’ve found ourselves with in our own ways. People baked copious amounts of sourdough with varying success, others have tried their hand at pottery, and plenty of us hit up Netflix or played video games until our retinas vanished. Some, however, have taken a less traditionalist route by joining a near 2 million member strong Facebook group where everyone pretends to be ants.
The group—or ‘colony’ as they preferred to be known by—is aptly titled A group where we all pretend to be ants in an ant colony. Makes sense. Anyone can request to join but you must successfully respond to several ant-related multiple-choice questions before you’re accepted as one of their own.
The first question reads “Who contributed the most to ant history?”, with responses ranging from “Marie ANToinette”, “ANTman” and “Our Queen”. I went with the latter, only to be faced with “Have you ever watched A Bug’s Life?” before entering the group. This was of course a no brainer, and not to mention a significant piece of cinema that helped invertebrates become more widely accepted in society.
Inside, the colony is thriving, with each member working together to achieve a common goal just as ants would. Images of dropped food are posted en masse, with comments coming through by the thousands and often replicated word for word. Currently, a photograph of a birthday cake smashed into the pavement is causing hysteria with around three responses consisting of “E A T”, “B I T E” and “L I F T” repeated over 10,000 times.
Keeping in mind that ants rarely function with independent agendas, and taking into account their commitment to the gag, getting a comment would be tough. After some persistence, however, one of the "ANTministrators" (administrators, just in case you missed it) Cathy Riep agreed to speak with me. The burning question is no doubt in relation to the point of it all.
“The main purpose is to protect The Queen, from the anteaters. And our alliance with the bees, they give us honey and we will help with the flowers,’” says Riep.
Yep, just like your run of the mill ant colony you’d find when digging around your backyard when you were four, their main driver in life is to protect and appease their matriarchal overlord, The Queen, to which all 1.8 million members are quite vocal about. To give you an example of this, I was the 4,580th colony member to comment “H A I L Q U E E N” on a post that read “Longest Hail Queen Chain”. It had only been posted 30 minutes before writing this.
I questioned why one ant in particular was so imperative to the survival and progression of the colony, to which I was met with a friendly, but concise answer.
“Without The Queen we don’t have a colony. We live, work and die for The Queen.”
The strict, regimented lifestyle of an ant may not seem like much fun at first, but dig deeper and you’ll find a group of collective individuals who champion the community spirit during a time where the traditional sense of community can be hard to find. You see, underneath this long-game of a gag, the colony provides a break from the noise that the world is currently faced with, and they’re finding other ways to do good, too.
“The best thing about the group is that we are all the same tiny little animals, and it’s a great escape from reality. Also recently we started a clothing line and the money that we collect goes to charity the Nature Conservancy,” Riep said in a brief break of character.
To keep the group as a space where one goes to switch off, Riep further explains that the colony is completely free of anything COVID-19 related, leaving more time for members to join in on the endless digging, lifting and carrying food to The Queen.
Other topics are up for discussion in the group, too. Up your ant knowledge with some “ANTucation”, take part in the "ANTcount" (the ant version of a headcount) or cast your vote on whether a rhinoceros beetle is a friend or foe.
Word is also beginning to spread like ants to an empty coke can that ANT-ball tryouts are coming soon. How that will work in a Facebook group of nearly 2 million people pretending to be ants remains to be seen, but apparently this is all part of the plan, along with becoming “the biggest colony and the biggest group on Facebook.”
Sure, it might not be how you’d planned to spend the rest of your time during lockdown, but A group where we all pretend to be ants in an ant colony might just provide the escape you didn't know you needed.
Best give A Bug’s Life another run first.
Ride out the rest of lockdown over at our Things To Do section.
Image credit: Maksim Shutov | Unsplash