Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. The Exploding Ants of Borneo

 
Colobopsis explodens. Photo credit: Zookeys / Alexey Kopchinskiy

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.

There are 26 comments.

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  1. Douglas Pratt Coolidge
    Douglas Pratt Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I needed that. Thank you.

    JOOC, does Radio Finland broadcast in shortwave? My Latin training was back in the prehistoric era so I seriously doubt that I could follow the newscast, but I used to be an enthusiastic SWL and it would be nice to know that there is something on the air still other than religious cults and RFE/RL.

    • #1
    • May 8, 2018, at 9:18 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  2. Rick Poach Inactive
    Rick Poach

    Douglas Pratt (View Comment):
    I needed that. Thank you.

    You’re welcome.

    Douglas Pratt (View Comment):
    JOOC, does Radio Finland broadcast in shortwave?

    No. It looks like their last shortwave broadcast was in 2006.

    Thanks for reading, Douglas.

    • #2
    • May 8, 2018, at 9:38 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  3. Douglas Pratt Coolidge
    Douglas Pratt Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Rick Poach (View Comment):

    No. It looks like their last shortwave broadcast was in 2006.

    Thanks for reading, Douglas.

    Thanks. That fits the timeline. The Internet took down shortwave radio and CompuServe, two of my passions. Ah well, creative destruction and all that. I don’t want to go back.

    • #3
    • May 8, 2018, at 10:16 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  4. Ekosj Member

    I don’t know which is more fascinating and unexpected: the exploding ants of Borneo, the fact that Radio Finland broadcasts news of the world in Latin, or that you somehow know that Radio Finland….

    • #4
    • May 8, 2018, at 11:09 AM PDT
    • 10 likes
  5. Rick Poach Inactive
    Rick Poach

    Ekosj (View Comment):

    I don’t know which is more fascinating and unexpected: the exploding ants of Borneo, the fact that Radio Finland broadcasts news of the world in Latin, or that you somehow know that Radio Finland….

    Take your pick, it’s all good.

    Thanks for reading, Ekosj.

    • #5
    • May 8, 2018, at 11:10 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  6. The Reticulator Member

    Ekosj (View Comment):

    I don’t know which is more fascinating and unexpected: the exploding ants of Borneo, the fact that Radio Finland broadcasts news of the world in Latin, or that you somehow know that Radio Finland….

    I won’t believe any of it until Media Matters confirms it.

    • #6
    • May 8, 2018, at 12:19 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  7. Rick Poach Inactive
    Rick Poach

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Ekosj (View Comment):

    I don’t know which is more fascinating and unexpected: the exploding ants of Borneo, the fact that Radio Finland broadcasts news of the world in Latin, or that you somehow know that Radio Finland….

    I won’t believe any of it until Media Matters confirms it.

    Confirmation depends on if MM can fund raise on it or demagogue it into a boycott of conservative media.

    Thanks for reading, Ret.

    • #7
    • May 8, 2018, at 12:23 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  8. Scott Wilmot Member

    You read Latin – that is incredible. Over the past year I have started attending the Traditional Latin Mass and am embarrassed that I know no Latin whatsoever (other than the words I chant during the mass). Very impressive man – good job – and good post.

    I’ll be waiting for the Latin Group you will start to teach us Latin!

    • #8
    • May 8, 2018, at 5:23 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  9. Hoyacon Member

    Douglas Pratt (View Comment):

    Rick Poach (View Comment):

    No. It looks like their last shortwave broadcast was in 2006.

    Thanks for reading, Douglas.

    Thanks. That fits the timeline. The Internet took down shortwave radio and CompuServe, two of my passions. Ah well, creative destruction and all that. I don’t want to go back.

    CompuServe I don’t miss.

    Not so for shortwave. Every so often I dig out my Sony portable and hope to find something. As someone who even enjoyed the likes of Alex Jones and the various Bible thumpers, I really miss it. Is there anything left?

    Don’t even try to tell me dialing in broadcasts from far away is anything like the internet.

    • #9
    • May 8, 2018, at 5:25 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  10. Hypatia Inactive

    This is so interesting. About the venom: can the workers also inject it from their mandibles, or does it only exude when their joints rupture? 

    • #10
    • May 8, 2018, at 5:35 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  11. Boss Mongo Member

    Rick Poach: And like many, I hold to them with varying degrees of success.

    Yes, but your resolutions shimmer with the brilliance of sheer awesomeness. Mine are kind of lame.

    Don’t drink before 0800. Oops. Had a varying degree of success, there.

    Question: Would Wheelock’s Latin be a good start point for studying the language? Or do you have a better recommendation?

    I mean, c’mon, I should be doing something productive sitting outside watching the sun come up and enjoying my breakfast beer. Latin is a worthy endeavor.

    • #11
    • May 8, 2018, at 6:30 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  12. Ekosj Member

    Boss Mongo (View Comment):

    Rick Poach: And like many, I hold to them with varying degrees of success.

    Yes, but your resolutions shimmer with the brilliance of sheer awesomeness. Mine are kind of lame.

    Don’t drink before 0800. Oops. Had a varying degree of success, there.

    Question: Would Wheelock’s Latin be a good start point for studying the language? Or do you have a better recommendation?

    I mean, c’mon, I should be doing something productive sitting outside watching the sun come up and enjoying my breakfast beer. Latin is a worthy endeavor.

    My first business partner was one of the smartest, most well read people I have ever met. He never went to college. He graduated from a fine Jesuit high school in Brooklyn where Latin was mandatory. He firmly contended that all you needed to become a well rounded, educated individual were some good, rigorous courses of Mathematics, and Latin. He was not a frivolous man.

    • #12
    • May 8, 2018, at 7:01 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  13. Rick Poach Inactive
    Rick Poach

    Scott Wilmot (View Comment):
    You read Latin – that is incredible.

    Before I could do it, I thought the same of people who could. It just takes persistence. At one time, most of the ancient world spoke it – how hard can it really be?

    Scott Wilmot (View Comment):
    I’ll be waiting for the Latin Group you will start to teach us Latin!

    For not so much teaching as goofing around, try S.P.Q.Ricochet.

    Thanks for reading, Scott.

    • #13
    • May 8, 2018, at 11:47 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  14. Rick Poach Inactive
    Rick Poach

    Hypatia (View Comment):

    This is so interesting. About the venom: can the workers also inject it from their mandibles, or does it only exude when their joints rupture?

    From what I’ve read, only from their bodies. But I also have only read online news articles, not the actual research paper.

    Thanks for reading, Hypatia.

    • #14
    • May 8, 2018, at 11:55 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  15. Rick Poach Inactive
    Rick Poach

    Boss Mongo (View Comment):
    Yes, but your resolutions shimmer with the brilliance of sheer awesomeness.

    You clearly have not met me.

    Boss Mongo (View Comment):
    Don’t drink before 0800.

    I’ll see that and raise it – “Don’t drive like a New York Metro Area lunatic through the ‘city’ streets of your new mid-western home town.”

    Boss Mongo (View Comment):
    Question: Would Wheelock’s Latin be a good start point for studying the language?

    Yes, but with guidance – no matter what book you use, you will have questions. You can always post those questions to the S.P.Q.Ricochet group.

    Boss Mongo (View Comment):
    I should be doing something productive sitting outside watching the sun come up and enjoying my breakfast beer. Latin is a worthy endeavor.

    That sounds like a good morning.

    Thanks for reading, Boss.

    • #15
    • May 9, 2018, at 12:06 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  16. Rick Poach Inactive
    Rick Poach

    Ekosj (View Comment):
    He firmly contended that all you needed to become a well rounded, educated individual were some good, rigorous courses of Mathematics, and Latin.

    I see his point. Both studies are essentially puzzles that teach you to think critically. Studying Latin also provides two further benefits. The first is that you really start to understand grammar and vocabulary – I often say that the best course in English I ever took was Latin. The second is that the more you read ancient authors, the more you really understand that humanity has not changed one iota in 2500 years. Sure, we’ve got niftier tools now, but as people, we’re absolutely no different.

    • #16
    • May 9, 2018, at 12:19 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  17. I Walton Member

    I gather your mention of the MSM in this connection is because they do the same but in reverse; they spew venom until their heads explode.

    • #17
    • May 9, 2018, at 3:13 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  18. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I use Henle Latin with my students. I learn alongside them. Now that I’m on my fourth high school student I’ve learned a lot, but am still a newbie.

    As an already-avowed grammar freak, I adore Latin.

    Thanks for the link to the Nuntii Latini!

    • #18
    • May 9, 2018, at 4:55 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  19. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Rick Poach (View Comment):
    humanity has not changed one iota in 2500 years. Sure, we’ve got niftier tools now, but as people, we’re absolutely no different.

    GK Chesterton, in his book Everlasting Man, makes this point beautifully.

    He’s making fun of the common idea in his day of the caveman, our brute inner man who drags women off by the hair and thumps things with a big club.

    He says that when he looks at the evidence of men living in caves, such as the cave drawings in Lascaux, he sees no evidence of brutality and dragging women about, but rather he sees the hand of another Man. He sees Art. He sees that which makes us human.

    Of course, Chesterton says it much better than I.

    • #19
    • May 9, 2018, at 5:02 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  20. The Reticulator Member

    CB Toder aka Mama Toad (View Comment):

    Rick Poach (View Comment):
    humanity has not changed one iota in 2500 years. Sure, we’ve got niftier tools now, but as people, we’re absolutely no different.

    GK Chesterton, in his book Everlasting Man, makes this point beautifully.

    He’s making fun of the common idea in his day of the caveman, our brute inner man who drags women off by the hair and thumps things with a big club.

    He says that when he looks at the evidence of men living in caves, such as the cave drawings in Lascaux, he sees no evidence of brutality and dragging women about, but rather he sees the hand of another Man. He sees Art. He sees that which makes us human.

    Of course, Chesterton says it much better than I.

    Lest we forget, there is a certain type of libertarian among us who says we are now better off in every way.

    • #20
    • May 9, 2018, at 5:05 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  21. Rick Poach Inactive
    Rick Poach

    I Walton (View Comment):

    I gather your mention of the MSM in this connection is because they do the same but in reverse; they spew venom until their heads explode.

    Thanks for bringing this up, IWalton, because you’re coming close to the understated point of the piece. It’s not about my News Year’s resolutions or my ability to read Latin, it’s this:

    Have any of you heard about these ants from our media? It turns out that a few outlets did do stories on them, but those stories were drowned out by our media’s ridiculous Trump obsessions.

    Myself, I only found out about these ants from a novelty news service by Radio Finland in Latin! How ridiculous is that?!?

    Our media has truly jumped the shark, or the exploding ant as it were, suicided by the very venom that IWalton correctly quipped that they spew.

    Thanks for reading, IWalton.

    • #21
    • May 9, 2018, at 8:14 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  22. Rick Poach Inactive
    Rick Poach

    CB Toder aka Mama Toad (View Comment):
    I use Henle Latin with my students.

    Thank you for the tip.

    CB Toder aka Mama Toad (View Comment):
    As an already-avowed grammar freak, I adore Latin.

    It’s funny, Latin can be really cool. But most people will look at you a little funny if you say so.

    CB Toder aka Mama Toad (View Comment):
    Thanks for the link to the Nuntii Latini!

    NP. What I like most about Nuntii Latini is that they, out of necessity, introduce words and phrase for things in the modern world – words such as automobile and neuro-toxin.

    Thanks for reading, CB.

    • #22
    • May 9, 2018, at 8:19 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  23. Rick Poach Inactive
    Rick Poach

    CB Toder aka Mama Toad (View Comment):

    Rick Poach (View Comment):
    humanity has not changed one iota in 2500 years. Sure, we’ve got niftier tools now, but as people, we’re absolutely no different.

    GK Chesterton, in his book Everlasting Man, makes this point beautifully.

    He’s making fun of the common idea in his day of the caveman, our brute inner man who drags women off by the hair and thumps things with a big club.

    He says that when he looks at the evidence of men living in caves, such as the cave drawings in Lascaux, he sees no evidence of brutality and dragging women about, but rather he sees the hand of another Man. He sees Art. He sees that which makes us human.

    Of course, Chesterton says it much better than I.

    There are two pieces that I especially like to point to to illustrate this.

    One is a story that the Roman poet Horace tells about how he was approached on the street by a hanger-on. Horace tries and fails to get rid of the guy by approaching an actual friend and saying, “hey, you remember, we got that thing, right?” And while saying it, he’s screwing up his eyes to signal to his friend to help him get away from the hanger-on. The friend, however, knows what a pain the hanger-on can be, and wanting nothing to do with the situation, leaves Horace holding the bag. It’s hysterical. You could easily see it happening today.

    The second is a short, two line poem by the Roman comic/insult poet Martial. It speaks for itself.
    Diaulus was recently a doctor, now he’s an undertaker.
    What the undertaker does, the doctor did.

    • #23
    • May 9, 2018, at 8:32 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  24. Hoyacon Member

    I credit the Latin SAT with “enhancing my admission profile,” as the College Board would say. Here’s a little test.

     

    • #24
    • May 9, 2018, at 8:50 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  25. Boss Mongo Member

    Rick Poach: The Exploding Ants of Borneo

    The reporter failed to answer the biggest question raised by the headline: Do they taste like chicken?

    • #25
    • May 9, 2018, at 7:19 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  26. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    I credit the Latin SAT with “enhancing my admission profile,” as the College Board would say. Here’s a little test.

     

    My elder daughter is taking the Latin Subject Test later this spring.

    Vale, Filia mea!

    • #26
    • May 10, 2018, at 1:14 AM PDT
    • 2 likes

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