After the military complex was abandoned, these eerie human-made caves became great roosting places for overwintering bats.
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In early s, volunteers started visiting the bunkers to monitor the bat population in winter, and made a discovery of a different sort: A large mass of wood ants Formica polyctena trapped on the bunker floor, surviving without a queen or any of their usual creature comforts. The bunker 'colony' with a 'cemetery' against the far wall. When it was first found in , this 'colony' of underground ants already included up to a million live workers and several more million dead. They were not reproducing, though. Instead, the population was being replenished through sheer accident.
In the ceiling of the bunker sat a rusted ventilation pipe, connecting the dark cavern to the forest above. There, a giant ant colony had built a mound right above the bunker; as the metal rusted through, some of their ranks started falling into the concrete cavern below.
The ventilation pipe. Rutkowski et al.
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Investigating the limits of ant living conditions is a subject of keen interest for some entomologists. So, for several years, researchers made repeated trips to the bunker and watched in fascination as this isolated population continued to grow and survive despite a lack of light, heat, or obvious nourishment. Now, scientists finally know how these trapped insects pulled it off: the mass consumption of their own imprisoned nest mates.
The colony built above the ventilation pipe. Czechowski et al. Heavy industry is taking over, to the deep resentment of local farmers and environmentalists, with fears of untold damage to both their livelihoods and their landscape. See all episodes from Trapped.
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