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Yes, you read that headline correctly. And while the claim of something so fantastic begs disbelief, these ants really do exist. However unsettling the idea of their existence might be, I consider even more unsettling the unlikely and downright obtuse path that I took to first read about them. Let me explain.
Like many people, I make New Year’s Resolutions. And like many, I hold to them with varying degrees of success. This year, one resolution that I made was said simply enough: finish all outstanding projects before starting new ones. In practice, to a great extent, this resolution explains my relative absence from this forum.
One of my outstanding projects was started in the middle of last year: refresh my competence in Latin by rereading Wheelock’s Latin. This project would be daunting enough if all it entailed was a simple reread. But no, for each chapter there are accompanying exercises. Moreover, I have two Latin readers with entries of increasing difficulty which map easily to the lessons in Wheelock. So, I included these readers in the project as well.
At the moment, I have completed all but the last optional appendix in Wheelock. It contains unsimplified, original Latin from Roman authors, such as Cicero’s denunciation of Catiline, which I am currently reading. But since some of the pieces in this appendix can be rather long, I have supplemented these readings with much shorter pieces published weekly by Radio Finland.
Each week, Radio Finland broadcasts short summaries of the news of the world – in Latin. It has done so for the past 29 years. Their program Nuntii Latini (Latin News) has garnered popularity with Latin buffs worldwide. So much so that when Radio Finland recently announced that they were considering canceling the program, their studios were flooded with emails and posts, written in Latin, begging them to reconsider. They did somewhat and extended the program’s contract until its 30th anniversary.
And it was from Nuntii Latini, Radio Finland, in Latin, that I first read of the newly discovered species Colobopsis explodens – the exploding ants of Borneo.
At first, I thought that I had read incorrectly. I distinctly remember thinking, “that can’t be right.” I consulted a dictionary for alternate meanings of explodere. But no, I had read correctly. When their colony is threatened, the worker females of Colobopsis explodens will latch onto that threat with their mandibles and then stretch their limbs and bodies to the point where they rupture. This suicidal act expresses a venom which flows onto the threat and kills it.
How odd. How terrifying. How beautiful. And more to the point, how unnoticed because it was so unsettlingly underreported.
Consider: while our pathetic excuse for a media chronically pleasures itself hourly to its obscene soap opera of a fading porn star and its sick revenge fantasy of a Pyrrhic coup d’etat, there is a new wonder in this world: a species of ant discovered in Borneo. They explode. And whether the knowledge of their existence fills you with wonder, or terror, or mirth, I thought that you might like to know.