Thus far in our Packaging the Future Series, we’ve looked at how plants (coconuts) and animals (Wombat butts) can serve as inspiration for planet-friendly packaging. But insects, with their tough, waterproof, breathable and totally biodegradable exoskeletons shouldn’t be ignored. Insects have been kickin’ it on this planet for over 400 million years and have outlived most other animal groups – even through major extinction events like the one that killed the dinosaurs! Even then humble ant can serve as a remarkable model for natural design brilliance – read on to take a look at these tiny titans’ incredible attributes!
I’ve had a lifelong fascination with ants; as a child, I spent much of my time in the woods, and unlike most of the other animals who would shy from my presence, ants never paid me any mind, crisscrossing the floor of my forest hideaways with neither interest nor acknowledgement of my existence. This of course made me admire them terribly, and when I learned about how they can lift 20 times their own body weight (actually some species can lift only 10, while others can lift up to 50), I knew my admiration was deserved.
I read up on how ants build their hills, how like the bees in my grandma’s apiary the queen ant breeds and others work, how they are one of the more ancient of the insects, and how successful they are. As reported on Wikipedia,“Their ecological dominance may be measured by their biomass, and estimates in different environments suggest that they contribute 15-20% (on average and nearly 25% in the tropics) of the total terrestrial animal biomass, which exceeds that of the vertebrates…only a few large islands such as Greenland, Iceland, parts of Polynesia and the Hawaiian Islands lack native ant species.” Yep, I was right as an eight-year-old; ants are cool, able to live almost anywhere, and have successfully moved about the Earth for 130 million years (mid-Cretaceous forward). And part of their success can be attributed to their exoskeleton.