So, why have I finally decided to talk about this book? Well, mostly because of the pile of ants that were swarming my hair clip on my bathroom counter tonight. "Eh?" you say? Oh, sorry, "Ew," you say? Well, yeah. This has actually happened a few times over the last several years now. The first time was when we owned an ice cream store and I thought perhaps I had accidentally gotten some ice cream on my hair clip while I was hunched up on the top shelf of our walk-in cooler trying to de-ice the back of our condenser unit with a blow torch. (Yeah, that happened...frequently.) Aaaanyway, the ant swarms continue to this day even though we sold the store several years ago, so I have discarded the ice-cream-on-my-hair-clip theory and moved toward the theory that the ants are mining the rubber that makes up the grippy surface on the inside of the hair clips because it's petroleum-based. Obvs.
OK, first, watch this TED talk by the author, Paul Stamets. This is what made me seek out the book in the first place. I know it's 18 minutes, but it's an interesting 18 minutes. Mushrooms can do amazing things! (If you really don't want to sit through all 18 minutes, then skip ahead to 7:32 and watch until 9:40). That was the part that intrigued me the most and made me want to learn more.
OK, so you saw how the mushrooms ate up the oil, right? You may also know that ants are somewhat famous for being fungi farmers. So, what I'm thinking is that the ants have figured out that there is this petroleum-based product that they can harvest and use to grow some kind of fungus. Makes sense, right? By the way, they don't only go after my hair clips. I've also seen them tear up surgical tubing and various types of seals on containers. It doesn't happen slowly over time either; it's not like I have to shake a pile of ants off my hair clips every time I go to use them. (Ick!) They (my hair clips) will exist on my bathroom counter or my nightstand, in my purse or on the desk next to my keyboard, in and out of my hair, unmolested for months, maybe even years, and then one day, BOOM! Hair-clip-shaped pile of ants! The only thing I can figure is that the rubber breaks down to a certain point where it suddenly becomes the perfect fungus-starter and the ants move in to take advantage.
So: Ants mining rubber to grow fungus. That wasn't in the book (at least not in the parts that I read), and I think I might be onto something here. Maybe Paul Stamets will do some studies on this and get back to me!
OK, so feel free to take a break here, or move on to part II, wherein I actually talk a little bit about the book.