So, you’ve probably guessed, mushrooms are the centre of our universe. We love ‘em! We’d live in one if it were possible! And, it turns out there’s a certain little creature that agrees with us. Yes, it’s one of the tiniest of Mother Earth’s beasties — the humble ant.
There’s a couple of things ants are known for, the obvious — as we’ve covered — is being mini. Another thing though, is their team work. Their work ethic. It’s rare to see a lone ant, and when you do, it’s usually on its way back to its colony, bringing food or some kind of insecty-news bulletin. They’re workaholics basically — definitely not party animals.
The Most Regimented Of Bugs
But, a recent study carried out by Swedish scientists has found that ants can get a little groovy — given the right ‘substance’. Yep, some Gothenburg-based researchers sent our little friends on their first magic mushroom trip! Using a colony of sugar ants (Tetramorium caespitum) that reside in their laboratory, the team set out to investigate how psilocybin can affect the behaviour of the most regimented of bugs — thus pondering further the question of how a ‘psychedelic society’ could look.
And how did they get the ants to take the shrooms? Well, they infused sugar-water with psilocybin. They basically made our sweet shroom tea recipe! After the ants had lapped that up, the researchers sat back and awaited the results. And, they were not disappointed! There were three main findings taken from the study, each more fascinating than the last:
1. Ants Dosed With Shrooms Work Less, Socialise More
Although the worker ants continued to go about their business, there were distinct differences. Having closely observed the colony’s behavior pre-dose, the scientists noticed that productivity post-dose was less than usual, and the ants themselves moved more erratically. This showed the psilocybin was interfering or distracting the ant from its regimented routine. The ants tended to clump together, as though forming social groups. They seemed to have the desire to be near each other, touching antennae and producing sound by rubbing their legs on their abdomens. These are the ways ants usually communicate, but it generally has clear motivation, such as danger warnings or grooming. Here, it seemed that it was purely for the pleasure of being near each other, as it was prolonged and with no direct action after it.
This of course, comes as no surprise to the psychonaut, who knows magic mushrooms can awaken your love for all humankind, in trice!
2. Ants On Psilocybin Explore More
The ants whose job it is to forage for food, usually travel some way from their colony, but never too far. After being dosed with shrooms the scientists found that the foraging ants roamed substantially farther than they usually did. In fact, an additional radius of between 7 and 15m was measured. Although they always returned home, the ants found different and new routes around their enclosure, doubled back on themselves, and went in circles. No noticeable distress was registered however, the ants seemed to be engrossed in their journey. It is well known that psilocybin can free you from the shackles of boring everyday routines, and help you to ‘think outside of the box’. Is this what the ants were doing? Exploring their environment with more freedom than ever before?
It certainly seems so.
3. Ants On Magic Mushrooms Build Mushroom Shaped Nests (!)
This is the big one. The scientists did hypothesise that behavioural differences were expected in their test-ants, but nothing like this finding was expected. Although the ants did, as mentioned earlier, become less speedy in their tasks they continued to work. But, their work changed. The ants began to build… mushroom-shaped nests.
Yes, these complex structures which are usually of a rounded shape, started to look rather fungi-esque. The researchers noted that they began narrower at the bottom and widened as they progressed, before narrowing again like a bell-shaped cap! Although ant’s nests are architecturally intricate, and the ability to make them ‘just so’ is born into every ant, they managed to seamlessly build a structure, the likeness of which has never been seen before.
How Did The Ants Know?
Why in the shape of a mushroom? How could they know? The ants had no way of understanding that they were being dosed with magic mushroom extract. And yet… the result was undeniable. Perhaps different lifeforms have ways of communicating with each other we can’t even comprehend. We certainly know there are many ways we can only imagine. What if there are ones we haven’t even dreamed of yet?
Did the extract of that fungi tell the little ant what it was? Deep in its ant consciousness? We know that fungi is closer evolutionarily to animals than plants. Maybe there are vibrations that humans cannot feel. It is possible that the ants built a nest of this shape in tribute to the mushroom, as a way of thanks. Much like the theories that early religion was triggered by primitive humans having psychedelic experiences, was something similar happening with the ants?
It sounds crazy — but nature still holds many, many secrets that she has not shared with us.
Deepest Mysteries Of The Animal Kingdom
The scientists plan to follow up this experiment with more, due to the unexpected and fascinating nature of its results. Dr Skarsgård, who led the study stated:
“The results were astounding, and we are keen to follow up on them. We hope soon to do a similar study with bees* — they create hives, have fixed roles and a queen, similarly to ants.“
(*Are you thinking what we’re thinking? Ready-made psilocybin infused honey?!)
With studies involving psilocybin becoming more common, as a spotlight is shone on its many possibilities, perhaps we will see it being used to further discover the deepest mysteries of the plant and animal kingdom.
Stranger things have happened! What do you think? Let us know in the comments below!