Ants: Nature's Secret Power

Ants: Nature's Secret Power

2006, Nature  -   74 Comments
Ratings: 8.56/10 from 254 users.

In this documentary we will be transported into the world of ants through the eyes of Bert Hölldobler, a world authority on these amazing animals.

What animal has achieved immortality? What animal is the most warlike? What animal has the greatest supercity on the planet? Not man but ants.

They are the real success story. It is only their tiny size and our vanity that allows us to hold onto the myth of our supremacy. Ants rule the planet. They are found in more habitats from far northern Finland to the sweltering tropics.

The largest colony known of these insects is in Japan, where 306 million ants, with 1 million queens, in 45,000 colonies spread over 270 hectares.

The fiercest warriors on earth are the slave maker ants. Other ants have barracks and sentry posts to protect themselves against surprise attack.

Bert Hölldobler, friend of world renowned scientist Edward Wilson, is a world authority on these amazing animals. He has dedicated his life, traveling around the world, to understand them.

Through his eyes and his words we will be transported into the world of the ants. A world more wonderful and bizarre than any science fiction. "Ants" will reveal this alien world for the first time, in the company of a true authority and enthusiast.

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74 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Daniel Zamorski

    Exxcellent...Highly recommend this documentary

    1. Adriana

      Very good documentary

  2. Reggie

    Working as a Collective reminds me of the Borg !!

    1. Ash

      OMG! I totally agree!

  3. bluetortilla

    In contrast with ants, humans are at each other's throats to the point where TDF mods decided to get rid of reply and editing. Maybe Payne (I believe it was) et al were right in observing that government was far too fragile to be left to the common person. lol
    If we were more like ants...

  4. bluetortilla

    Yes, amazing. You know though, that humans are even more 'aliens' than the ants with all prodding and experimenting. Is that what aliens will do with us? hmmm....

  5. Lana Lee

    I was amazed by the footage and the facts on these ants. Mind-blowing. Staggering. Impressive. I have a new-found respect for all ant species. Excellent documentary!

  6. Chandan Cm

    I'm a student of University of Mysore, India. I'm planning for documentary on Common Black Ants, any hand to help?

  7. Hollis Evon Ramsey

    ants are nature's vacuum cleaners, they are essential elements of nature -- an elemental force to be reckoned with. i am so amazed by what they can do. i have one question, though -- do ants sleep, or rest at all? just watching them do their thing is exhausting!

  8. John A. Smith

    Ants are the best insects - they work together for the common good of their colony.

  9. Lovro Šari? Kora?evi?

    I laughed every 3 minutes :'D
    Nature has a very honest sense of humor.

  10. Edward Campbell

    Any one who liked this documentary should watch 'PHASE VI' (1974). A fascinating scifi film where the Ant Empire Strikes Back..! A real cult classic. It's where the ants do to people what we do to them. All in real scale and believable too.

  11. Gary Wang

    I have i can donate some of my allowance to your station. thanks for sharing

  12. Sweetjohnnydalton

    Ants have always creeped me the hell out, there sneaky, determend, and worst of all mobile.

  13. Annamukpo

    i love ants i youst to flip roks ove and put them in a jar

  14. ProudinUS

    When I was a kid in elementary school, some of us went out for recess and collected all the red ants we could find and put them in a glass milk jug with some dirt and watch them do their thing. Highly organized. With each ant hustling to dig out there home.It was awesome to watch......once in awhile I'd throw in some catipiller just to show their sinister side.

  15. Ryan Fulford

    ******* awesome! ants are amazing creatures! chemical communication? thats crazy talk!

  16. Classic Ichaï

    i didnt like what they have done to the ant city=(

    1. Guest

      Me either, felt a bit sorry for them but i did love seeing their nest like that, would love to see it up close.

    2. Winston Smith

      I know this is an old comment.. but just so people know, it was an abandoned nest poured cement into there at the end.

  17. Guest

    Centrifuge Ant is my new hero. This is wonderful.

  18. Maximus

    much of nature (and ants) has been destroyed in this documentary. the science is strong with them

  19. Mirjam Fašmon

    whow it's so very interesting :D only the music is awkward sometimes - it makes me feel like ants are superheroes ;)

  20. wheelnut53

    If the video is no longer available why is it still listed here . Its a real let down when I get my popcorn and soft drink sit down and find out what I was looking forward to viewing is not possible .

    1. Ryan Fulford

      i agree! i was all set up here!

  21. Aaylsworth

    Excellent! Insightful, revealing and entertaining! The best ant Doc I have seen yet :)

  22. Hassan Abd El Fattah

    mind blowing and amazing

    1. Yusuf Mamdani

      In The Holy Qura'an one sura Naml-# 27(The Ant) is named after it where the Prophet Solomen talks with an Ant.

  23. H Neil Sangte S

    lol i use to observe this tiny people a lot..i remember thinking once damn why cant ppl make a proper doc only on ants...i loved the animated one too..:[)

  24. Vishal Patel

    must see this documentary must must watchable

    you feel god make many amazing things

    jay swaminarayan

  25. Lynne Gordon

    Absolutely AMAZING! I have to tweet this website! I think it is the best thing I've ever found online! PERIOD!

  26. Michael Danger Gee

    excellent, i recommend this!!

  27. Victor Ho

    i like this very much ...... ^o^ gundam36sf

  28. Stan Eicher

    When I was a kid I watched a massive ant chew it's own leg off to escape from a ring of hardened hot-glue I had put around it's path. The ant ran off with 5 legs.

    I thought of this when the grass-cutters just burned to death while they worked. They had zero motivation to save themselves-- only to keep cutting the damn grass, and then the rest of them got lost on the way back.

    It's weird how different species behave when faced with danger. It seemed to me that the grass-cutters really screwed the colony over by not getting their asses back to the nest. I wonder if being alone triggers an instinct in them to persevere as individuals, and then that shuts off once they get back to the community.

    S***, you would think they'd have developed a chemical smoke detector. The mealy worm farmers can detect when its going to f***ing rain and still have enough time to get their herd to safety.
    Yeah, it's some guy setting fire to his own field, but still.

  29. Stan Eicher

    That grass-cutter colony is amazing!10 tons of cement...damn. The acorn town is cool, too.

    And wtf was up with that bear? It was not his day.

    god I love ants.

  30. Karenwasherefirst

    Extraordinary creature, but when do they enjoy life?

    1. Greg_Mc

      Havent watched the doc yet but I know a little about ants. What I am sure the vid doesnt show is that in a rotation the ants gets one weekend a month off to enjoy life. Buried deep in the ground there are hedonism ant resorts where they let loose drinking, hanging out at pools, getting massages and there are even little ant brothels so they can have private ant sex or for the more adventurous they even have ant orgie rooms. While I am sure this doc is very informative I think someone should make a doc about these hidden and unspoken of ant resorts

    2. Dnice58015

      I think they enjoy knowing that there colony is safe and has a future it seems that way viewing this. Never knew how amazing they were tho.

  31. His Forever

    I got to the part where they said that ants were the ones that truly ruled the world (world power) and I openly scoffed a bit, then I purposely looked around and sure enough! THREE of the little "earth rulers" were not just in my house (which I utterly detest), but on the very computer table I was using to watch the video! The super tiny little red one are so horribly hard to get rid of!

    In fact, now that I'm looking, I see hundred of them on the floor, on the wall! One just crawled acroos the computer screen itself. Good grief; they really do rule the world, or at least my house! :-(

    I think ants are truly facinating, but I only like ants OUTSIDE my house.

  32. documentaries


    1. snoopysnoopypoopdog

      What do god has do do with this?

    2. snoopysnoopypoopdog

      Leave god out of this, will you!

    3. Shawn

      I think you meant nature. Or did you mean the invisible man in the clouds?

  33. Jack1952

    I loved the ant treadmill.

  34. jubbs_sher

    Did they kill the whole ant colony upon filling it with concrete?! Hope not. Maybe this is how humans should run their societies!

    1. His Forever

      Yes, I would think so! They didn't mention it, but I would think, what was it? 10 tons of concrete would destroy the colony. That was very interesting, however.

    2. Kev

      There is some behind the scenes footage that shows the ants breaking out of the concrete. It's pretty amazing what these little guys can do!

  35. lequebecois385

    ""Maybe their is no such thing as being a "Human" a "Me" , a man or a woman.
    No Rocks, no Plants, no Apes, no Ants , no Bugs, no Computers, no Machines;
    No Stars;
    No GOD, no wind would be necessary

    If Only "I" or "WE" Humans were exsisting""
    So "I" surely came before the rest.

    OUCH, the livings cells in my brain are smashing against each other.

    "JE" pense donc Je suis:

    1. Damon Rolnick

      how did Moses describe God??

      I AM

      your right, i came before anything- and it is the same "i" that we all are

      there is nothing but God- Awareness and only one of it

  36. lequebecois385

    Wow what a nice "concrete" ants metropolis!

    I feel the same: I mean a little bad. About invading those aliens ants. But i think it as been done properly as ourselfs being giants aliens invaders invading nano-alien civilisations, witch sometimes invade my own House. I liked the non-semetrical architectur witch is i think much much more technicaly advanced than our own. Probably because they are building since millions of years on the same planet.

    I think the lab research is very very very less usfull and no respect for nature itself. I'm not sure they've learn anything else.

    I saw an other docu. on machines and tech. of the futur and that makes me think of a theory;

    What if all bugs or insects, especially ants were some kind of
    (cyborg-human-aliens-nano-machines), lol

    Acting perfectly! Like computers or programs, but with no emotions, no thautght, no self-awerness, no intelligence, no feelings.
    But! Much much much much much more advanced in some way. Living threw other catastrophies, other wolrlds maybe comming from somewhere else. Maybe thats why we need to study them and learn so many many things on them. Kind of an alien nano world that we are'nt sizing yet. I mean i'm not sure we are living on the same time scale and they are abviously not working with the same forces... They are obeing something else.

  37. Color Vinette

    Amazing documentary on the secret lives of ants. My favorite part was when the researchers filled up an ant colony with liquid cement to reveal the complex ant city. Very ingenious although I felt bad for the ants who had lived there. Never-the-less what an amazing feat of engineering.

    Special thanks to Vlatko for finding this great documentary.

    1. Jack1952

      It made me say wow!

  38. PaulGloor

    I love ants !
    I used to dig them up/turn over rocks and put em in those giant pickle jars and watch em for weeks, feeding them sugar water. Truly remarkable and varied creatures.

  39. Clifton Richard

    Ants are remarkably fascinating !

  40. Mold and Mildew Removal

    Great message.So true.

  41. Shelby Sherman

    Ants rule, not humans with their puny, non-existent gods. We are bigger, but we are not better. They laugh at us from below.

    1. Muhannad

      Yes, this is the exact expression, and a deepest one.

    2. OprahWinfrey666

      Ants can't laugh, you know..

  42. John Reilly

    Absolutely amazing and very humbling..

  43. Guest

    How is it known that ants evolved from wasp 100,000,000 years ago? And not the other way around, wasp evolving from ants?
    Can someone clearify this for me.

    And why did primates not evolved from humans instead of the other way around? May be unnitelligent human clans evolved into wild monkeys.

    1. Epicurus

      based on the fossil record and the simple rule that evolution works from simple to complex. humans are unique in our brain size to body size ratio and our bipedalism. the brain size in the fossil record shows a growth in small to big and a progression from quadroped, to knuckle or fist walkers, and then to bipedalism. its just simple the way biology works. evolution works with what it has and it has simple things to work with and build into more complex things.

      ants evolving from wasp like creatures which also evolved into the wasps we know today, evolution often branches off as species spread to different environments. here is a simple wikipedia page on the evolution of ants. if you dont trust the wiki page you can click each number after the sentence and check the source, however i already have and assure you its accurate.

    2. Guest

      You assume humans are smarter than primates but perhaps not! Evolution has worked quite well for primates until we came around (yes us the smarts!) to destroy their environment.
      As in the 100 monkey experiment, if monkeys had evolved as humans would'nt the message of intelligence been passed down to all and therefore bring the primate extinct. It makes more sense to me that common Intelligence went down hill and was replaced by a very smart way of working with Nature as Primates do in the wild.

    3. Guest

      please see my recent comment above...i don't know where to put comments in this string of words...
      I wish it was possible to reply to a reply but it is not the way it is.
      Also...being a moderator seem to make you respond with ideas gathered on the beaten path...a little excursion on sideway thinking could provide a little magic, by the way your avatar looks like Merlin!


    4. Gwayne Li

      I'll kinda risk myself into some major vulgarisation: It's like lego. The building blocks are same in the fundamentals, but from complexity and certain proteins and all the hormones and much more complex enzymes, some are common within species, so we can figure out the branches or family out of all that complexity. We know some hormones/enzymes were created to counter/complement more primitive enzymes etc. so from that perspective, we can say some species came after others. On the other point, Fossil records with carbon dating is usually precise enough to indicate most evolutionary processes, and is complementary to the first point.... which permits scientist to relay the links. Of course, it is not empirical, but is often right. LIke this documentary states, something similar happens to the science community: Democracy through number of ''scouts''. and OUR scouts are scientists. the more peer review hypothesis have been confirmed/infirmed, the more ''potent the chemical signal is'' To relay to what the doc actually taught us :P.

      So that explains in some point the evolution of species, including the Homo sp.

      through dating, complexity and performances (of various factors -> evolution/improvements/etc.)

      This post is the most i can vulgarize, so if some people try to refute it, it is VERY EASY. But meh, the concept (my point) is still accurate in my opinion.

      Gnight all.

    5. Guest

      @epicurus and Gwayne Li
      Let's say we imagine that in 200 yrs (just for the sake of saying a number) we may be travelling to other planets, it is then easy to imagine that perhaps a 1,000,000 yrs ago (just for the sake of saying a number) Umans from an other planet may have travelled to earth and start colonizing it.
      So let's also imagine that this Uman was a being similar to us standing on 2 legs. These people would have been quite intelligently advanced in a way we have no way to guess. They possibly knew how to get fed just from water, air and sun like a plant. Then suddenly a clan would have started to eat and yrs down the line some would have started to bend down to graze and yrs down the line some would have disconnected from the knowledge they once had and yrs down the line some would have become primates. Then the Umans would have separeted into humans and primates.
      How deep in the earth is the proof of who we once were. In the video Discovering Ardi, bones are found near the surface. What would be, let's say 100 feet down (if at all preserved) or deeper? The earth behave like a quick sand and swallows anything that lays on it's surface.
      In my opinion this could solve many questions that remain unanswered since the beginning of writing. Just food for thoughts or for the sake a creating a discussion.

    6. Epicurus

      thats a wonderful what evidence do you have to support that and to show the current model, which fits the evidence nicely, wrong.

      now about finding fossils on the surface. the earth goes through lots of weather and wind....we call it climate. that climate and other geological happenings stir up the ground every now and then...landslides and earthquakes are good examples. also floods will loosen up hard ground and stir it up with the water rushes. that is how we find fossils on the surface.

      the earth however does not act much like quicksand in the way you seem to think it does. most of those things are under ground because of millions of years of wind blowing dirt over them and floods happening and also volcanoes....and sometimes places that were dry a million years ago eventually become lakes then go back to being dry which also changes the landscape alot.

      great questions though. you have an inquisitive mind. curiosity is good in science.

      also in response to your other comment, first off humans ARE primates, and we are absolutely smarter. there are plenty of tests done all the time to check their intelligence. just look around you and. look at the computer and internet you are on...we are much smarter. also our brains are much bigger and contain a more complex frontal lobe which allows for higher cognitive functioning. we are much smarter.

      also the 100th monkey experiment is a fraud. you can look it up.

      i could simply say...."what if 20 million years ago a race of super aliens flew into our solar system and started to make the sun using special machines they have to create stars...

      its a wonderful science fiction story, but what is the evidence to support it? and what do i do with all the evidence that shows how stars form naturally?

      that is how you do objective science to discover the truth of reality apart from our imagination.

    7. Guest

      @epicurus and Gwayne's thumbs up
      I suppose you have guessed i am not a scolar, i never had the mind or personality for such sitting down kind of learning. I am an artist but i do respect people who are school educated because their years of learning in books from other people's ideas and their writing it down allows me to search through the myriad of so called facts and chose what fits my ever changing present understanding of life. My mind flows as much as theirs...but mine is a bit more wild, not so tamed by what is not appropriate to think or say with the fear of being considered stupid or uneducated.
      I have witnessed the genius of man's mind in Egypt standing next to the Sphinx, walking in the depth of Giza and exploring the vestige along the shores of the Nile.
      My inquisitive mind had brought me to Peru where i scratched my head trying to understand how the stones that support the walls of ancient Cuzco and Sacsayhuaman were cut and assembled. I trekked through to the four corners of Turkey, parts of Grece, Syria, Jordan, Iran, Pakistan, India, Thailand, China, Laos, western Europe, Mexico, Guatemala, Marocco, Mauritania and other countries of West Africa ....and many others places. Yes i have been very curious and somewhat lucky, and have concluded that man was at one time possibly more inginious then he is now playing with plastic.
      You think we are smart...i agree, but the way we are smart is not comparable to the way apes are is like comparing the plump, red shiny apples in your supermarket and the alma or the Malus sieversii that once grew wild.
      I agree the *rosary* of knowledge that was accumulated
      by man has been quite impressive specially in the last 200yrs but is it man who is smart or it is the knowledge itself that forces him to continue birthing the next idea towards his intellectual and monetary ambition.
      You see for me smart is not to construct a computer, smart is to know how to live within the environment in a sustainable way that was mastered by the apes before our coming here with our big brains! We have no way to measure the brillance or stupidity of a gorilla unless we cage them and submit them to our little games of human test. Yes gorilla's have been observed in the wild but don't we know from quantum physic that something that is observed changes it's behavior. To know gorillas or monkeys you have to be one.
      You think it is crazy to imagine that aliens could have colonized the earth...what will we do if we land on a planet that is inhabited by a creature that appears to be controllable? Exactly that!

      sorry it took me a while to get back to you...i was away celebrating the start of my exciting 54th year. I suppose i will read my text back thinking ...ho i should have written this or that...i will wait and see how you will come crashing on my ideas. Just remember attacks are poor tactics that many teachers used toward students who were curious in their youth...that is the main reason the education system is f******!

    8. fair_go

      They all evolved from a common ancestor

  44. toddy

    this was great. Sometimes I pretend to be "god" and pour a shot glass of sugar outside a ant hill.

  45. Traian Totoescu

    This was awesome :)

  46. esmuziq & frames

    whats a meli bug ?

  47. Gwayne Li

    Waaahhh... sometimes these kind of things occur to me... Human societies should be like this?

    Awesome Doc. A bug lover once again pleased : )

    1. His Forever

      No Human societies should be like ants! The dumb things kept on working even as they were burning to death. God created ants to be ants, and God created people to be people; our destinies are different. You cannot "fellowship" with an ant, but you can with another person. We have an eternal soul and a mind to think and live with; they have biological preprogramming to exist with. The two realities cannot really be compared I think.