It was an OK life. He survived. He got enough food, and actually had more than he needed, because the plants he found were way more than one gnat could eat. Some gnats are carnivorous, which means they eat animals, but the very idea made Marty gnat shudder.
That’s what we’ll call him, Marty gnat, because we’re about to meet another gnat. We’ll call this one Sally. She would be called something in latin by someone who studies gnats, but that’s a whole boring business that involves a lot of gnats on pins, and the less said about that the better.
So Marty gnat was sitting on his leaf, enjoying dinner, and wondering what it would be like to join a swarm. Even a macho swarm like an evening swarm of male gnats, which is called a ghost and sounds romantic. But on a gnat level a big macho swarm of male gnats is more like an insect frat party with every gnat showing off his flying, his strong antennae, and the glitter of his wings. So Marty had never liked that sort of gathering.
And along came Sally gnat. She landed right next to Marty, and asked politely if he minded if she shared his leaf. Marty was speechless, but waggled his antennae in a sort of my leaf is your leaf sort of way. So Sally crunched away for a few minutes until Marty got up his courage to ask whether she’d be joining the swarm over the puddle later.
“No,” said Sally. “I really don’t like that sort of thing. I just got away from the most horrendous ghost swarm a few minutes ago. Honestly, all that testosterone in one place. You’d think those guys only had a few hours to find a mate or something.”
Marty nodded. Then Sally asked him why he wasn’t in a swarm. Marty opened up about how he never really felt comfortable in a swarm. You just sort of flew around aimlessly and didn’t really get to know anybody.
Sally smiled and nodded. “We should start our own swarm,” she said with a laugh. And for once Marty wasn’t tongue tied. He said yeah, they should.
When Sally finished eating, she and Marty circled above the puddle for a bit before settling down for the night.
Over the next day or so, Marty and Sally formed a tiny swarm of their own. As older members went their way, they introduced their offspring and the swarm continued to grow bit by bit. All the members of the swarm looked out for each other, and took care of the little ones. Eventually, the swarm was so successful it formed other branch swarms to keep the size manageable.
Now if the people who study gnats looked at Marty and Sally’s swarms, they would classify them as a new species. This one displays communal protection and the nurturing of the young. And rather than flying aimlessly, the Marty and Sally swarms form complex and beautiful aerial dances.
Moral: Follow the music of your heart, because others may want to hear it.
- Swarm intelligence: Study uncovers new features of collective behavior when overcrowding sets in (phys.org)
- And So It Starts … Suicide Gnats and All (strategiclearner.wordpress.com)