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.