Heroic ants take suicide pilgrimage to save colony

For aeons we have been their tormentors; burning them with magnifying glasses, pouring boiling water into their homes and shooing them away from our picnics with petulant disdain.  But now the humble ant has risen above its lowly status thanks to a new study cementing its reputation as the epitome of selfless heroism. 

Basing their hypothesis on a combination of sound scientific methodology and, presumably, repeated viewings of CGI animations such as Antz and A Bug’s Life, Professor Jurgen Heinze and sidekick PhD Student Bartosz Walter have documented the heroic and noble nature of the Temnothorax unifasciatus species of ant in a report published in Current Biology

The researchers found that, upon an ant learning it has contracted a terminal illness, the plucky insect will leave the safety of its home and venture into the wilderness to die alone in a bid to save its colony.  

While there have been reports of such behaviour previously it had not been proven that ants were indeed behaving in this manner through their own free will.  A common parasitic fungus, Metarhizium anisopliae, was often given as the reason why ants would leave their nest to die.   

This quite spectacularly gruesome affliction would involve the parasite taking control of the subjects mind and forcing them to climb, zombie-like, to an elevated point such as the tip of a blade of grass so that the fungus could grow out of its body and spread it’s spores further.  

To prove that this was not the real reason behind an ant’s suicidal mission Professor Heinze released C02 into a colony of the insects which caused those affected to age prematurely.  Upon realising their grim fate, the ants would, often within hours, leave the colony never to return. 

They would not, however, be forced to leave by other workers attempting to protect the healthy population, but would turn tail of their own accord, even, sob, shortening their own life spans significantly in doing so.   

Rumours of ants being heard outside nests bellowing in dramatic tones “I am going outside, and may be some time,” a la Captain Oates are, as yet, unsubstantiated.