We didn't have time to explore this in the video above, but the University of Arizona entomologists Daniel Charbonneau and Anna Dornhaus we featured also explored a "middle management" theory of lazy ants in their study.
We risk anthropomorphizing too much, but their initial theory was that these seemingly lazy ants might actually function as communication relays, telling worker ants where to go and what to do.
This theory didn't hold up to closer inspection, however, as the lazy ants quickly proved the least connected to the needs of the colony. That ties in rather nicely to the comparisons we made with the Dude from 1998's "The Big Lebowski," a film about a rather uninformed LA slacker who still manages to serve a role in larger machinations. Like the lazy ants, the Dude may SEEM rather useless at first, but he's really a dormant resource, waiting for his time to shine.
That's ultimately the key to some of the more compelling theories regarding lazy ants: They're either food stores or reserve workers to help deal with fluctuating food levels, worker losses and occasional full-blown invasions.
So take heart the next time you're feeling lazy, or the next time someone calls you a slacker. Perhaps your threshold for action is a little lower than the busier worker ants in your colony, but when the going gets tough — well, you know the rest.