Antsy

Antsy

If we could bottle up the energy and determination showed by any random colony of ants, wouldn’t that be a neat thing?  It might be a valuable commodity to sell or trade, and there are days I could use a dose of that medicine myself.  We hear about busy beavers and busy bees, but what about the ambitious ant?

Just to set the record straight, I am not a big fan of most insects.  Sure, I like butterflies (who doesn’t?), and as much as I absolutely detest spiders, the wonder of some their webs can be fascinating to look at, providing I haven’t accidentally walked into a strand of them first.  Bad, spastic dancing, forsooth!  Recently, though, my friend–and book editor!–Kendall Wills Sterling came from Virginia for a visit, and we took a stroll around the cemetery in town.  We were admiring the various art forms that were favored by the stonemasons over the years, and looking for the oldest legible headstone, which seems like it was from the 1870s, when we found a two-directional procession of ants at the base of one of the monuments.  They were climbing up from ground level to the point where the headstone joined the base, entering a tiny cavity between the two parts, coming back out with what appeared to be eggs, and returning to the ground with them.  At that point they disappeared into the grass and we couldn’t see what happened next.  Maybe it wasn’t the ants we cared about so much as the mystery!

The trusty iPhone in my pocket allowed me to capture some photos of the constant traffic.  “This is going to turn into a blog, isn’t it?” K. stated, more than asked.  “Yep.”  I confirmed.  “This is how it happens.  I see something that catches my attention, snap a few pictures, and read about it later.  Then I write about it.”  Nothing fancy, but the method seems to be working so far.

Here’s what I’ve learned about ants since then:  they are ectotherms, meaning coldblooded.  Although ant nests here in Missouri are typically comprised of underground tunnels, these tiny insects know by instinct that they can use rocks to assist in thermoregulation.  My assumption now is that the ants had stored their larvae in a weather-worn cache between those stones to keep them warm.  By the time we saw them, it was getting a bit too warm, so the little workers were retrieving their precious cargo and taking it back to their subterranean home, all in the name of temperature control.  Who knew?!

Now if the ants in the cemetery could send word to their country cousins to stay the heck out of my kitchen, that would be fine.  Otherwise, the war’s still on.

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