What Ants Have Taught Singapore's Ant Man (You Should Take Note Too)
STORY: Amanda Lee
25 March 2021
“My wish is to set up the world’s largest ant enclosure!” proclaims John Ye boldly.
John is the owner of Singapore’s first ant shop, Just Ants, located at Blk 928, Yishun Central 1. (You can read more about it in our piece “Ants Make Ant-chanting Pets: Here’s A Case For It”.)
The outgoing and knowledgeable entomophile (or insect lover) quit his job as a distributor of wholesale electronics to set up Just Ants in 2019 because of his pure passion for these creatures, which – get this – outlived the dinosaurs and have been around for over 120 million years!
Apart from interesting ant facts (did you know, for instance, that all worker and soldier ants are female? #girlpower), John shares with us five lessons that the humble ant has taught him about life.
1. “The Ant Philosophy: Never give up. Look ahead. Stay positive and do all you can.” – Jim Rohn, American business philosopher
“Once, I saw an ant with two missing legs, and although she was struggling badly and limping weakly, she really persevered and pushed on. I was both touched and motivated by the determination she showed that day.
“Despite an ant’s minute size, it is able to accomplish great and unimaginable feats; there is nothing an ant cannot do!
“Ants are task-oriented and focused on getting the job done. Each ant has an innate ability to know what to do. It seems like they are destined to exist for a purpose. Whenever ants forage for food, they commit to their tasks and forage for up to a few hours. They never, ever give up. Even when they fail, they just get back up and continue trying.
“Ants are very persistent – it’s a virtue, in that respect. For instance, no matter how hard we try to get rid of them (when there’s an ant infestation), we can never really get rid of them. But if you do have an ant problem, please feel free to let me know and I will be happy to help re-home them for you!”
2. If you cannot do great things, do little things in a great way.
“Ants are satisfied just sipping a little nectar or honey. If I could live my life as simply as they do, life would be so carefree and so much less stressful. This is the reason why I always say that the ant is my spirit animal!
“Ants have taught me that if I cannot do great things, I should do little things in a great way.
“Fun fact: An Ant has two stomachs, one for itself, and one for feeding others. The process in which they feed each other is called trophallaxis. I truly find this very altruistic and respectful - such tiny creatures doing great things!”
3. Teamwork is the key to success.
“Ants exhibit excellent attributes of teamwork, especially when hunting and foraging for food. The bigger and stronger ones assist the weaker ones and their spirit of camaraderie is mind-blowing. No ant is indispensable.
“A single ant is weak compared to an army of them. One ant can never take down an enemy much larger than itself. I believe that they are the most united species on the planet.
“Ants are eusocial insects with an extremely high level of social interaction within a colony. Ants display a unique way of communication with one another, and they even have a kind of pheromonal language.
“Ants, like us humans live in massive societies, metropoles within complex structures. Every ant has a specific role to play in the colony. For example, they have various duties and vocations like Armour, Artillery, Guards, Sentry, Hunters and others. Even if they belong to the lowest caste, they do their jobs to the best of their abilities with extreme pride.
“So… if you’re currently serving the nation and you feel like what you’re doing is meaningless, I hope that, just like the ants, you know that every role, no matter how small, has a significant impact on our nation. Don’t be discouraged!”
4. There is a time for everything. Work hard, rest harder! Shiok!
“Ants are always on the go, but did you know that they do not sleep like humans do, but take intermittent short naps throughout the day instead? They do not believe in being idle or complacent. Before winter comes, ants spend a great amount of time collecting and storing food. Once winter arrives, they can finally rest and enjoy the fruits of their labour.”
5. Ants also do national service leh!
“Ants are extremely good at the art of war. There are even kamikaze-like ants that are courageous and relentless. Ants are loyal and will defend their nest at all costs, even if they were to lose their lives. They are the prime example of 'protecting the ones we love'.
“This reminds me of my time back in the army... I was doing my part by serving the nation in the Infantry unit. Ants are doing their part to serve their “nation” (colony) too! There’s an army song that every person who has served will know, and it’s also pretty much the theme song of an ant’s life):
Training to be soldiers
Fight for our land
Once in our lives
Two years of our time
Have you ever wondered?
Why must we serve?
Because we love our land
And we want it to be free to be free yeah!
“It is really interesting to observe ants carrying a huge cricket or worm back to their nest and communicating in their own special way. For example, a platoon of “minor ants” will circle the prey and the bigger and stronger “major ants” will concentrate on paralysing the enemy by ripping their legs off.
“After the enemy is taken down, another platoon of ants will swarm in to carry the enemy or prey back to the nest. Words cannot describe how tactical and effective they are, and if you want to see them in action, do drop by our shop!
“Ants cover each other and protect one another. I’ve seen a group of ants carrying their injured sisters with the utmost care. Ants also gather the bodies of their fallen soldiers and place them at a graveyard outside their nest.