When I was a kid I used to kill ants for fun. The methods in which I did this were peculiar enough for me to want to post about them. Just to be clear, I have never hurt any other animals, nor have I wanted to do so as a kid. Besides insects and spiders, I actually love animals. Ants were in a strange sort of limbo for me because while they weren't large enough for me to be afraid of them, I still could not feel even a shred of empathy for them. Being in this limbo is what allowed killing them to be fun to me.
My favorite weapon of choice was a serrated butter knife and my favorite method of killing was to very slightly tap them with the flat part of the blade. Even the tiniest bit of force would cause sever damage to them. I would scout for a victim and once they were selected let them know of my presence by tapping the knife on the ground near them. I would chase them around for a while before finally landing a blow. After the first tap they wouldn't be able to run anymore, but they would still keep moving. A lot of the time their antenna would be bent and some of their appendages would be broken. I would let them walk around a little before tapping them again and again and again until they stopped moving. Here's the first interesting observation that I made about their behavior. If an ant is still capable of moving it's body, but it is sure of its own death, it will curl up into a ball and twitch until it stops moving. Most of the time I tapped them to death before this could occur. The second method of killing would be to simply cut them in half, which required more coordination than I thought it would. I was surprised to discover that if cut low enough, they would continue to walk around after. On some occasions, I thought I saw some kind of trail of flesh following behind them.
I discovered a few, "human", like traits in the ants behavior, although, I may be projecting. For instance, ants that have been cut in half seemed to display more erratic behavior than tapped ants. They were more aimless and frantic in their movements. The reaction of ants to them was also far greater than tapped ants. Ants seem to show some form of fear. Besides killing ants, I also used the knife to both illicit a reaction from them and push them from one location to another. When two healthy ants were pushed into each other they always panicked greatly when put into contact with each other. This panic was far greater when one of the ants was damaged in some way. When simply observing ants without interfering, I noticed that while healthy ants occasionally stopped to interact with other, they never did this with damaged ants, who they seemed to actively avoid. I noticed that ants who have taken notice of me would sometimes stop and possibly look up at me. Sometimes, instead of slowly killing an ant with tapping, I would slowly cut it to pieces with the knife when it is immobilized. Trying to cut off an ants legs while it was still capable of moving was far too much of a pain to try to do regularly. Another method was to grind the ant against the rough space between my kitchen tiles with the knife, which resulted in the ant being shredded into tiny dots in a straight line. Killing an immobilized ant in this manner in front of another immobilized ant seemed to illicit a frantic reaction and greater fear of being into that space. The most resilient moving part of an ant is the antenna. Even when immobilized and almost totally dead, the antenna would still frantically move regardless of how bent and broken they were. The only way to stop the movement of the antenna was to either cut them off or kill the ant.
The large scale behavior noticeably shifted after enough of their numbers were eliminated. If in a small area there was a mass grave of ant corpses, regardless of the number of crumbs, some ants would avoid the area upon sight. I saw what seemed to be shock in one ant who unexpectedly encountered such a scene and promptly fled. The area that the ants occupied changed depending on the killings.
In my house there was a large spray bottle of orange wood polisher that near instantly killed ants. This chemical substance brought some new depths to the killing. If you put a raisin on the floor the ants wouldn't touch it, however, if you broke the skin of said raisin and left it on the floor they would quickly swarm it. I would then take this opportunity to spray them in mass rather than one at a time. If only a small amount got on an ant, it would die much slower. Ants are extremely prone to drowning. When I formed a small droplet on the ground and pushed an ant into it, it would make a very small, futile effort to get out of it before being unable to move anymore. If I tried pushing it out of the water, it might have a chance of living for a bit longer if I was quick enough, but it would still drown from the water sticking to it. An ant surrounded by water would act frantically and endlessly run around on its small patch of dry kitchen tile. they would ran even faster if I tapped my knife close enough for them to notice. Ants that have only been tapped to immobilization will stay alive for around half an hour before dying. In this time spam they might be promoted to attempt moving again when pushed, or they would just start spasming. The only part of ant that being cut off would instantly kill the ant is the head. Sometimes an ant would be killed on the first tap if its head was directly contacted. Some ants showed a noticeably higher resilience than others and required far more taps to kill. This oddly enough made me feel some weird form of respect for those ants.
I tired experimenting with various weapons, each having a different effectiveness. Boiling water resulted in instant death. Scissors were impractical and purely a novelty. Ice had no interesting effects. It would just get the ant wet and drown them. Ice packs kind of made them move a bit slow. Gum perhaps was the most interesting. Pushing an ant into gum would result in instant immobilization. It was absolutely impossible to get the ant to move after the initial push. The ant seemed to make no struggle either. I tried to see how honey would affect ants. Surprisingly they avoided it for a while. They did no such thing with jam. I speculated that it may be honey's connection with bees. The ants would eventually start eating the honey, but never do so if it is laced with wood polish. One interesting case was when I tired pushing an ant into poisoned honey. Shockingly, it seemed to actually start eating it before dying a few minutes later. Trying to repeat this yielded no results. The case that left the biggest impression on me was when I attempted to drive an ant insane. First I picked a victim and did my usual bit. Got its attention, chased it and landed the blow. This time, I really dragged it out though. I tapped it once more, but was extremely careful to not render it immobile. After this, for ten minutes straight I chased it around while tapping the knife close to it and incessantly pushing it around vast distances. Its behavior became unbelievably erratic. Even without intervention it would try to get another ant's attention and the other ant would run away from it. I eventually put it out of its misery, but it was a very very slow process. So ya, am I a psycho ubuu?
I was like ten, so not really. This was how I casually spent my summer afternoons. I think I might have had a nightmare about it once though.
I remember now that after a few hours of killing ants, when I went to bed at night that day and closed my eyes, I would see countless ants crawling on a floor and totally covering it. It was like when I played the game boy non-stop and couldn't help but have the image of the game screen in my mind when trying to fall sleep.
Nah, you aren't a psycho. I used to do the same with grasshoppers, like cutting their limbs and seeing how they react, beheading, I even made a forest of impaled grasshoppers à la Vlad III and I'd drop the others there to see how they reacted before making them join the party.
Nowadays I regret being such a cunt with the poor things, but at the same time I understand I did it because I lacked empathy, and I simply lacked empathy because I was a child. You'd be surprised, but kids are just like that, they… kind of lack the idea of being in the shoes of the other, so they will remorselessly kill and torture bugs without a whit of regret simply because they don't think they are doing anything wrong. We usually gain a sense of empathy around 9 or 10, I think. I remember reading about this once but can't quote the source.
As for the behaviour of your ants, they work with pheromones. I think the others tended to avoid that place because they can spread a smell that's basically like "If you walk about this place you're going to die". As for moving so erratically when tapped, I think it wasn't so much fear as pain. I'm not entirely sure they can sense fear, however I'm no specialist.
That makes a lot of sense, but as I already said, I had no desire to hurt any other animal, so I do think I had some concept of empathy. Looking back on it I don't bad, just sort of intrigued. That might be because I am dead scared of all insects. I can't bring myself to empathize with them because they seems like monsters to me. I stopped killing them out of boredom. >I think the others tended to avoid that place because they can spread a smell
That makes a lot of sense, but I also feel that ants must also react to visual stimuli, as the one that stumbled upon the ant grave did. That also doesn't explain the utterly callous way that healthy ants reacted to injured ants. The healthy ant wouldn't run away to some place totally different, they just avoided the dying one. In my last story, behavior of the ant became more erratic even without additional pain. I think ants are more complicated than people give them credit for.
I think it's easier to empathize with a dog or a cat because we're surrounded by them constantly and told they're living beings, and also we can see them defending themselves if we try to harm them, which may discourage us of doing so because a) it can hurt us b) we can see plainly it hurts them. Back then I had a cat and I really loved them (in fact I still do love animals in general), but I didn't flinch my eyebrows while bisecting grasshoppers, crushing ants, or tearing earwigs apart, simply because I couldn't recognize anything on their features that indicated pain, though somehow I acknowledged they were suffering since I was testing how they reacted to my little garden of legs and heads.
>I can't bring myself to empathize with them because they seems like monsters to me.
I've actually come to love insects for this. They're as alien as you can get on earth.
>That makes a lot of sense, but I also feel that ants must also react to visual stimuli, as the one that stumbled upon the ant grave did.
I'm not saying they don't react to visual stimuli, but most ants have really poor sight, and some species are even completely blind (it'd be interesting if we could track what species were you playing with). Here's more info on the composition of their eyes: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ant#Head
On the same article there's more info in #Communication about how they use pheromones.
>In my last story, behavior of the ant became more erratic even without additional pain. I think ants are more complicated than people give them credit for.
I wish I could go deeper on this, but I've never actually studied animal behaviour (other than my experiments). I think ants are more complex than we think too, but we've managed to crack most of their basic traits and can predict their activity with a fair amount, of accuracy (though not perfectly).
I'm sure I got some kind of sadistic glee out of it. Even now I have a tiny bit of those tendencies. Well, whatever. >it'd be interesting if we could track what species were you playing with
I have a suspicion that they might be pavement ants. My kitchen was directly connected a patio. I sometimes saw ants slipping through the separating door. The location and behavior seem to match, but on the patio itself I only ever saw really tiny brown ants, so that kind of throws me off.