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Look at the Ants!

June 5, 2021

Another Way for week of May 28, 2021

Look at the Ants!

I was just weedeating the thick grass at the edge of our cement driveway. But apparently I was the disruption of an entire community.

As I walked back along the weedeated surface, I noticed bits of brown sand and thousands if not millions (most likely!) of busy wiggling ants, all aghast and probably angry (surely!) about the loud weedeater that had hurricaned its way through their slice of earth and sidewalk edge.

Ant hill on our driveway.

But, perhaps I didn’t need to feel too guilty about my disruption: ants are the busy organizers of clean-up and rebuilding. Before I even had much of a chance to feel badly, within an hour or two I noticed the disturbance was pretty well abated—the ants had scurried back to their homes under the sand. What do ants do besides rush around when we see them?

If you haven’t googled “ants” lately to find out what their role in the environment is, stop reading this and do some googling yourself. If you’re not online, I’ll include a summary here. If we don’t love ants, they at least deserve our fascination. We can educate ourselves about their many virtues.

If you’ve forgotten your biology classes, ants are amazing. A website called “Harvard Forest” says among the work they do is gardening: turning and aerating the soil which helps water and oxygen reach plants.

Lonely ant …

They help spread plants around too—taking seeds into their burrows and chomping on parts of seeds that have protein and lipids, thereby opening the seeds which sprout into new growth. Okay, sometimes the plants are weeds.

They eat pesty bugs such as termites, chew away at dead animals, and help wood and logs decay into richer soil for the forest floor. And in turn, in “the cycle of life,” ants supply food for birds, mammals and even some plants!

But to me the most fascinating part of these little ant societies is the role of the queen ant. There are three “genders” of ants: queens, males, and worker ants. Workers are female, but cannot reproduce. Only the queen ants can lay eggs making new ants. Mostly the queen lays eggs that become worker ants (hmmm, how nice, I hear my female readers saying), and the males, after mating in the air with the queen, go off and die (how not nice, male readers might say).

Even wise King Solomon’s attention was riveted by ants. A paraphrase about ants in Proverbs (chapter 6: verses 6-8) goes like this:

You lazy fellow, look at an ant.
    Watch it closely; let it teach you a thing or two.
Nobody has to tell it what to do.
    All summer it stores up food;
    at harvest it stockpiles provisions.
So how long are you going to laze around doing nothing?

Now, ants are not all fascination. They are a lot of frustration. Each year I get them in my kitchen. Grrr. As another website, “thoughtco.com” puts it, “If you live in an area where stinging, imported red ants are common, you might despise them, ,,, [but] entomologists and ecologists argue that we literally can’t live without them.”

Antblog website says “Over their lifespan, which can be as long as 15 years, a queen ant may lay millions of eggs, more than enough to populate their own colony and found others.” A 15-year lifespan! I found another website that says they may live 30 years. Who knew?

Isn’t creation amazing? This year, my grandsons who live in an area where constant cicada serenades have joined their lives, are teaching me about these bugs. They are utterly fascinated. The two year calls them “bug-caidas.” The five year old informed me that the red ones are “boys … males, and the orange ones are …. are …. are [he was obviously searching for the right word] …. they’re females.” So, they’re learning not only about bugs, but the peculiarities of language!

As summer launches (I usually think of Memorial Day weekend as the beginning of summer), get out in nature as much as you can. Enjoy cool evenings on a porch, patio, or backyard. Or better yet, by a lake, creek, or beach. Thank God for our remarkable earth and the gift of life God has given you—and remember God’s commands for humans to not only take care of and love each other, but to tend and take care of the earth. And now you know that ants also help tend the earth.

What insects have you enjoyed observing? What have you learned from ants?

Which would you rather not see, ever?

Ever have drama with an ant colony?

Comment here or send to anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at FindingHarmonyBlog.com a week after newspaper publication.  

2 Comments
  1. When I saw the title I immediately thought of the verse in Proverbs. None of my family could be considered sluggards. You may recall from my blog post last week that when she was sixteen my Aunt Ruthie commented on watching a procession of ants from her bedroom window, probably crawling up a tree.

    My children would collect ants with dirt, put the whole thing into a quart jar and watch the tunnels they would build against the glass.

    I had no idea that an ant’s life span is as long as 15 years. Thanks for the illumination, Melodie.

    Now it’s off to church this Sunday!

  2. Thanks for taking the time to comment. Was this your first Sunday of in person worship? We go once a month to an in person worship at a local Presb. camp with a pavilion, but are very anxious to get back to our building too.

    I’m not sure my daughters ever collected ants that way but their sons are having a blast with the cicadas! (It is Florida-hot right now, hoping for a rainstorm…..

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