Pillage and Warfare

 Pillage and Warfare

As per Mandy’s request, I’m publishing these pictures.  As much as i admire the industry and organization of these fascinating creatures, it is also true that this year has been the worst in 13 years in my battle with the leaf cutter ants that have stripped my gardens time after time after time.  What used to be a once-a-year skirmish has turned into a year-round battle to try to preserve some of my greenery and flowers. 

DSC09398(Above:) Here you see bougainvillea, honeysuckle and hibiscus fallen to the tiny but effective jaws of the leaf cutters. This pile of leaf segments cut from the bushes above awaits transport to the nest.

DSC09392(Above:) A lone ant approaches his load, walking over the chalk line.  At the time, this Chinese Chalk was  my only defense against a garden completely stripped of leaves and flowers!

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(Above:) Comrades at arms  struggle to move a leaf over the chalk line, in the process coating their bodies with the lethal “chalk.”

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A lone ant vanishes into the crack in the concrete that leads to the nest.  A thin powder of the insecticide chalk can be seen on his hind quarters.

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An ant struggles to move his fallen comrade back to the nest.

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Too late, he himself falls.

DSC09397In the end, only the remnants of the harvested leaves are left to mark their former workplace.  This round against this nest, I seem to have won; but experience has taught me that they will be back!

For a fascinating look at the devastation army ants can wreak, I recommend that you read “Leningren Vs. the Ants” by Carl Stephenson.

 

15 thoughts on “Pillage and Warfare

  1. john flanagan

    Judy,
    have you tried a spray made of two parts water and one part vinegar? my grandmother used to use that and i believe she had some success when she sprayed the ground but i think you have to do it a few times

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    1. lifelessons Post author

      Hi John. Thanks for the suggestion. I will try it on other ants in the house, but outside, I need something they can take back to the nest in a great enough quantity to kill the Queen. The lady at the garden supply said they can use gas, but they once pumped three trucks full of gas into the ground and never did find the nest. They said the tunnel extended 5 miles from San Juan Cosala, where I live, to Chapala! These ants are present in astonishing numbers. I love watching their organization and their amazing display at group effort, but I also love my trees and flowers! Judy

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  2. mandy

    Judy, what spectacular photos! When you mentioned these ants in your post this morning, I thought I might have an inflated picture in my head of them, even sci-fi’ish, but nope! My heart is racing a bit–all we need is The Funeral March playing in the background. Quite devastating what they can do to plants. And the war continues. Thanks so much for sharing these with us!

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  3. lifelessons Post author

    Well don’t you make a person feel great last thing at night! Hope I don’t dream about these poor little creatures, though. I did feel an equal amount of fascination and sadness in viewing their final struggles to get all the leaves and fallen comrades back to the nest. Judy

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      1. lifelessons Post author

        Oh no, sorry. I really did mean that you made me feel good. It sounds like irony, but it wasn’t intended as such. I was responding to the fact that you had said the photos were spectacular…just that. The comment about dreams was due to the pictures themselves, not your comments. Judy

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  4. Tamara

    Wow. What an amazing underground city they must have! I have heard of people with success pouring boiling water down a crack, but this sounds so massive, we are not talking about ordinary black ants. And in my house, I use geranium oil around any opening where they come in. I wonder if spraying your plants with geranium oil would save the plants, but not kill the ants? I forgive you for the big guns. It is always sad to kill creatures especially when they work so hard.

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  5. lifelessons Post author

    If it were one or two plants, that might be a possibility…but imagine every bush and tree on my entire lot–inside and outside the wall. They can strip a tree or bougainvillea overnight..At one point there were only bare branches…They also took over my art studio and were dumping out all the dirt in it that they carried up to build their tunnels…plus filled in my entire bookcase, between it and the wall, so piles of dirt were building up on all the shelves overnight–and seemed to be using the studio as a graveyard as there would also be piles of dead ants in all the drawers and all over the floor…This is a massive problem. There comes a point where it is you or them and that is when I went to war. If only they would concentrate on my spare lot where I have to pay someone to clear it! I, too, hate to kill anything, but there is no alternative with cutter ants when they decide to take over your territory.

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  6. Pingback: For Dux: Cutters | lifelessons – a blog by Judy Dykstra-Brown

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