HBM098: Feed the Queen

The Victoria Bug Zoo is home to dozens of species of insects and arachnids, and two leaf cutter ant colonies.

There's the new colony, with a three year old queen whose kingdom grows every day. If all goes well, she is expected to live to the age of fifteen, laying an egg approximately every three seconds. Her colony is teaming with a healthy population of soldiers, gardeners, and foragers with the potential to reach more than a million ants. There is a constant stream of activity; the soldiers patrol the tunnels to keep the queen and colony safe, the foragers trek back and forth retrieving leaves for the gardeners who busily chew the leaves into substrate.

Leaf cutter ants don't actually eat the leaves they cut down. Instead, they use chewed up leaves to build nurseries for the hatchlings, and to grow fungus gardens. The fungus produces a nectar, and that's what everyone eats. These ants have farmed and domesticated this fungus for many millions of years, long before humans discovered agriculture. This special relationship is called “mutualism”.

The second ant colony -- the old colony -- is not a robust as the first. At thirteen, almost fourteen years old, the old queen recently passed away. In fact, Bug Zoo tour guide Ash Bessant discovered ants dragging dismembered parts of her body to the ant graveyard as HBM producer Bethany Denton was interviewing him.

From: Ants! Natures Secret Power A giant ant colony is pumped full of concrete, then excavated to reveal the complexity of its inner structure.

According to Ash, some of the ants continue to try feeding and cleaning the queen even after she’s died. Without a queen to lay eggs, the colony population will eventually dwindle and die out.

Can’t get enough leaf cutter ants? We recommend the 2013 BBC documentary Planet Ant: Life Inside the Colony

Bethany Denton produced this episode, with editing help from Jeff Emtman. Nick White is our editor at KCRW, and Kristen Lepore is our manager at KCRW’s Independent Producer Project.

Music:  The Black Spot   |||    Serocell


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HBM070: The Way The Blood Flows

“I used to think you were brilliant” Evan Williamson’s dad wrote to him in a letter.  Evan was in treatment for chemical dependency at the time.  His father asked if they could meet in Alaska to continue a family tradition of fathers and sons who fished together.  

The Alaskan waters were teeming, and two spent entire days ending lives together.  Evan’s dad, amid all the death, explained that he too was dying.  

The boat chartered by Evan and his father.

Some of the fish Evan and his father caught in Alaska.

The Way The Blood Flows a short story written and read by Evan Williamson, who currently makes videos and music with his wife Sidra as they travel the world.  Their series is called Sid and Evan Leave America.  You can follow them on YouTube and Facebook.

Music: The Black Spot

Jeff Emtman produced this episode with help from Bethany Denton and Nick White. 

Here's some other news: Nick and Jeff have just published another podcast project: The Outer Reach: Stories From Beyond a sci-fi anthology from Howl.FM.  Give a listen!

 

 

HBM056: It Works Better in Movies [EXPLICIT]

When Lina Misitzis was a teenager, she told people she was dying.  She wasn't.  But, an entire genre of "dying girl gets the guy" movies taught her that landing a boyfriend required a certain brevity on this planet.  She only lied to men, men she wanted to be with. 

That was more than ten years ago, but the guilt of exploiting imaginary illness for (failed) romantic gain stays with her to the present.  Julia Wallace, her therapist, thinks that Lina can overcome this guilt by re-writing the story of her teenage years, by calling three people she wronged and telling the truth.   So, Lina does.   

Music: The Black Spot ||| Serocell

Lina Misitzis produced this piece.  Jeff Emtman edited it with help from Bethany Denton and Nick White.

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