The Saharan silver ant can ran up to 108 of its own body lengths per second, making it the fastest ant in the world. But it lives in the desert, and running in sand usually slows us down. How the heck do they do it? Plus: in Banner Elk, North Carolina, the 42nd annual Woolly Worm Festival gets underway this weekend.

The world’s fastest ant clocks record speed of 108 times its own body length (Ars Technica)

42nd Annual Woolly Worm Festival 

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It seems like this week has flown by. Maybe that’s because one of this week’s most notable developments was about a very swift creature.

It’s called the Saharan silver ant, and this week researchers released an in-depth study of just how speedy these little bugs are.

They can move 0.855 meters per second, which means in one second the ants can move 108 of their own body lengths.

No surprise why they’d want to. They live in the desert, and the desert is hot. While that means there are usually other bugs left out for them to eat, it also means they can’t hang around too long trying to get them. Each movement has to be fast.

But the desert is also made of sand. So how do they speed everywhere even in desert conditions?

Using high speed cameras and other techniques, the researchers figured out that the ants have a particular way of running, or, technically, galloping.

Each of their six legs touches the ground for just enough time to propel them forward, and then it’s back in the air. A very quick process.

The irony here is that the field research started in 2015. It’s just that the ants are so fast they’re actually hard to measure and observe, so the researchers needed time to figure out how to do the study.

And now we move on to caterpillar news: this weekend in Banner Elk, North Carolina, the 42nd annual Woolly Worm Festival.

It’s quite an undertaking. The participants race woolly worm caterpillars all weekend at the elementary school.

Once a winner emerges, they inspect its colors carefully to predict what kind of winter they’re going to see.

Because there are 13 weeks of winter, and woolly worms have 13 brown and black sections.

Makes sense to me.