chapter  II
33 Pages

PROPERTY AMONG THE INSECTS

In this chapter I propose to consider some aspects of the property relation in the insect world. For obvious reasons it is not possible to cover the whole field of insect behaviour nor to deal with many of the fascinating problems that beset the specialist when he studies the nature of instinct, the nature of stimuli to instinct action, and the nature and degree of plastic action among the various insect orders.1 I propose, therefore, to confine this study to one or two typical insect orders: various species of wasps, bees, ants and termites. The two former species include insects living solitary, social or semi-social lives; the two latter live entirely social lives in communities ranging from a few hundred to many thousands of individuals. Thus among many of the bees and wasps what we judge by our objective criterion to be property is 'owned' individually and pro­ visions are stored in individual nests. On the other hand, ants and termites 'own' the nest collectively, defend it collectively and provision it in the same manner. A gre­ garious life is lived purely in the interests of the community. The opportunity therefore presents itself of studying both the reactions of the individual insect to primitive property values and the reaction also of those communities whose economic organization may very well be classed as ‘com­ munistic/ in a later defined sense of this much-abused term.