The Ants Go Marching Home Again Until They Don’t

Please click to enlarge these photos! I swear you won’t be sorry.

The other day, I went out to inspect the wall that Jose had repaired and painted that day. For the first time in a long time, it was devoid of coverage by plants and accessible–which also made all the wall damage viewable as well. It was as I was inspecting his admirable work on the wall that I suddenly realized why it was so open to view—a solid line of leaf cutter ants moving so rapidly along a bare branch laden with the incisor-chopped pieces of my bougainvillea vine! As usual, I became fascinated by their industry and organization. Met with an obstacle, they simply switched to the bottom of the branch and walked upside down. If a burden proved too heavy, it would be transferred to another ant, or in some cases, it seemed to be a usual thing at a certain point for each ant approaching it to transfer their leaf to an ant approaching them from the opposite direction, as though it was a handoff in a relay race. The conveyor belt of ants proceeded so rapidly that it took perhaps thirty or forty shots to get these few photos, and I must admit that it was with great sadness that I applied the chalk and powdery poison that, carried back to their nest on their feet, would wipe it out.

Understand that I hate killing anything in nature, excluding scorpions and flies, which I pretty much kill without a thought, knowing it is them or me. I don’t kill spiders or caterpillars or crickets or bees or dragonflies or any other insect other than mosquitos, which for good reason in this denge-plagued subtropical region I live in, I have little guilt in killing. But, that said, if I did not destroy the nest of leaf cutter ants, within days I will possibly have no flowers and no leaves on any bush, vine, tree or flower plant on my property. The flower pictured in my last post would never have been photographed. The vines between my house and my neighbors are totally stripped up to a height of perhaps ten feet, our privacy removed. And so yesterday, I staged my latest sortie against the ants.

Later that night I returned to see that the ants were gone. Kukla came along and observed from the stump of a departed tree and it was only after a little walk along my curbside  to collect litter that I noted another line of leaf cutter ants, now moved to the road closest to the curb. Ruthlessly, I drew a chalk circle around an especially large ant carrying a bougainvillea leaf section, knowing he’d have to cross the line and carry the pesticide back to the nest. Then I returned, a bit sad, to the house. Kukla jumped down from her stump and followed. This morning, I found the tiny corpse of a nestling bird on my kitchen door mat, untouched except for one tiny puncture wound on its chest with a pinprick of blood on it. It was the gift or trophy of one of the cats. So sad for that little life too soon ended, I pondered the hypocrisy of mourning lost life according to the age, appearance and size of the departed. Then, rationalization set in. Nature is based upon such carnage, and most of us are part of it, no matter how softhearted we tell ourselves we are.

18 thoughts on “The Ants Go Marching Home Again Until They Don’t

  1. Marion Couvillion

    Great observations and photos, THANKS~!, I especially like Kukla~!
    When I wonder out at night, I always have three animals following me, taking advantage of the togetherness in their element~! Eppie sits and watches, much like Kukla, Coco walks around and YELLS, if a mouse or lizard is to be caught, that noisy cat is the one that will do it, and Tami runs around me in circles unless a mouse or rabbit gets her attention.

    Otherwise I have always been fascinated by ants, even those that I hate, and when young would sit and watch them for hours, often thinking that we could learn from them, but then I remember that some people would even use this advantage to destroy us. Our leaf cutting ants are not as harmful as yours seem to be. Their beds (mounds) are mostly in tall grass and their pathways are clearly seen as to where they gather leaves to bring back to their mounds to feed their aphid, (cows) which in turn feed them. So I am only bothered by fire ants, but then I more or less stick to native plants and can not successfully grow the bougainvillea that I so love either. I do have roses etc that are more determined than I and critters are~! My philosophy out here is: get a plant I like, plant it, and then give it every chance to take root and survive. If the soil or nature says “NO”, then at some point I must give up and let nature take it’s course. This seems to work great, except in my curtilage, which I aggressively guard~! So I would say that my place is more balanced with nature. Having given up long ago with fighting such things, except when they encroach inside my little curtilage. I wonder if there is some way to spray the underside of the lower branches with something that would make the ants move on to better pastures. Eeeh I just squashed a mosquito in the middle of my screen with my finger~! He is huge, mostly after being spread out~!

    Funny, I again awoke to similar thoughts as yours, (except mine are about people) and I may get around to writing about this as the day progresses. My nights are still not my own, but I am getting stronger each day~!
    SAM Voelker

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      1. bushboy

        Leave them alone and they will do likewise. The rule in Australia is “Don’t poke the snake” which goes for all possible dangerous things that abound here

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    1. lifelessons Post author

      They are incredible to watch. If only they collected grass instead of leaves and petals. They don’t eat what they gather. They use it to grow a fungus they do eat. They are farmers.

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          1. slmret

            Oh, Judy — you’re such a horrible monster!!! I certainly understand why you would wipe them out before they wipe out your garden! It’s good that chalk is all it takes, but does another colony form and come at you from a different direction?

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            1. lifelessons Post author

              The chalk has a pesticide in it and this time I used a powder form, not the stick of chalk I usually use. And yes, another colony does form but once the rainy season starts they stay in their underground abodes.

              Liked by 1 person

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