On a cold morning of January 2011 an Explorer Ant named Jack filed to his superior the following report: ‘Today at 8.34am I recorded a case of the so called ‘Fireflying’ in Zone 3 of the nest, sector AC’. It was the 24th case in a few weeks. The report was tagged ‘RED’ and passed on to General Ant. General Ant read it carefully, adjusted his glasses on his long nose (ants don’t generally have a long nose, but where else would you place glasses otherwise? And anyway this is a fairytale so small amendments to reality are possible – and recommended). So… he adjusted his glasses on his long nose, stretched his antennas and went into a deep moment of reflection.
‘Fireflying’ was the code name given to a syndrome that was affecting some ants in the Colony. An affected ant first experiences some dizziness, then expresses wild mood swings--laughing as if drunk, behaving in an hilariously inappropriate way in public and ultimately lacking discipline and being non-productive (which you can imagine can be a serious problem in an Ant Colony). A few unreported cases were gossiping about sterility and having the lower part of the body strangely yellowish. Both the irreverent behavior and the changes in the body led to ants naming this syndrome Fireflying.
A first discrete investigation reported that all cases were affecting ants living in Zone 3 and specifically in the sector AC. The Sector AC had been recently built and was one of the new modern icons of the Colony, a model of efficiency, modernity and a display of the abundance and prosperity of the Colony. The ‘malfunctioning’ was quite worrying not only for the decrease in productivity but also for the impact that this would have on the image of the Colony itself!
On the other hand minimizing the impact could have been equally dangerous: what if the Fireflying would extend to other areas? What if ants would become more and more aware of this syndrome and began gossiping in an uncontrolled, unproductive and very difficult to manage situation? Some articles appeared already on the ‘Ant Tribune’ and the ‘Morning Bite’. Especially a Blog run by an anonymous ant that was signing as ‘Anti-Anty’ was worrying the General: its criticism and irreverent tone were a real concern for the current government. In the past some unfriendly were posted and resonated across the whole Colony. The Government decided to ignore them but clearly underestimated the power of the new media: in a few hours through the social network SnoutBook the buzz was so high that it forced the Government to publicly amend their actions. A mistake not to repeat.
General Ant had these lessons and more thoughts running through his mind, carefully evaluating pro and cons of each alternative. In his opinion the issue was to be addressed publicly, but in a controlled way. Before any move he needed to know as much as possible about this Fireflying thing.
He decided he needs to ask for help.