In my perfect world, most scientific papers would look like this new article in Insectes Sociaux by Hart & Tschinkel:
Abstract: A north Florida population of Odontomachus brunneus, a species of ponerine ants, was studied for a one-year period to determine the annual cycle of reproduction and colony growth, including the foraging biology and seasonal changes in nest architecture. The life cycle of O. brunneus is strongly seasonal. Colonies produce brood for 6 months and are broodless for 6 months. Alates are produced in mixed broods at the beginning of each season, consuming much of the colony’s energy reserves. These reserves recover slowly through foraging during the summer’s worker production, and rapidly after brood production ceases in October. The foraging population was estimated to average 77% (SD 22) of the workforce. This proportion was not related to colony size and female alates were also found to forage. Nest architecture was found to change seasonally, with winter nests being more than twice as deep as the average summer nest.
Simple, simple, simple.
The study records when a population of ants has brood, when it has reproductive alates, what the ants do in winter, and other observations over a year. It is the most basic of biological information, the sort that forms a baseline for later work. Yet this sort of research has only been performed on fewer than 5% of the world’s ant species. For most ants- indeed, for most insects- we do not enjoy even this modicum of information.
No one gets a job nowadays documenting the basic life history of earth’s organisms. So there is little incentive, apart from raw curiosity, for biologists to take time from their genomics, transciptomics, and all the other –omics to simply observe & measure wild populations.
More like this, please.