28 June 2011

Turf War

Aww!  Cute ant drinking water, right?  Don't you dare be fooled!
 
I recently heard that pound for pound, ants outweigh mammals.  Yes, all mammals.  It's amazing they outweigh a single blue whale, much less all of us warm-blooded, hairy animals.  Now, I don't know how anyone would go about actually calculating such a figure but my point is, that's a lot of ants.  It makes me not feel so bad about accidentally squashing one once in a while.  I don't go out of my way to torture them like I did when I was a kid, drowning them or feeding them to ant lions and such (yes, I know--I'm awful) but maybe it is time to reconsider a personal crusade against the pesky insects.  It seems like they've been nothing but trouble here and 'trouble' is being generous.
This little guy (an ant lion) . . .
 
  . . . lives in this neatly constructed den, waiting for ants to fall in for him to eat.

One of the things I love most about having our own yard and even better yet, a yard in the country, is that I can string a line between any two trees I like and hang clothes out to dry.  From the highway, no one can tell that my unmentionables are flapping in the breeze.

During the summer, I try vehemently to take advantage of the free method of clothes drying.  I stress free as a generally positive motivation, along with preserving some energy and the fresh smell of clothes dried in the wind (as long as no one within several miles decides to clean out their hog manure pits that day).
On an ordinary Saturday, I started the routine of washing clothes and hanging them out to dry.  I got through a couple of loads before going outside to switch out baskets.  To my dismay, the line had broken and the clothes, still pinned to the line, lay draped over our freshly cut lawn.  Luckily they were already dry so I shook the grass clippings before folding them and hauling them inside to request Jack restring the line.
It took just a few minutes to tie a new knot and hammer a nail through it and my beloved clothes line was as good as new.  Up went more clothes.  Down went the line.  Out went Jack to attach it once more.
We ran into town for a few errands and returned home shortly after the sun sank below the horizon.  My clean clothes were on the ground.  Again.
At that point, I was getting perturbed with Jack's inability to properly string a clothesline and considered fixing it myself.  The hammer was still by the back door so I grabbed it and went to make the repair.
Jack beat me to the walnut tree where the line had again broken and was staring at the trunk.  Even in the dark, it was obvious what had really snapped the line.
 Carpenter ants.  Oh, goodie!

I'd seen them performing tightrope routines across my clothesline as a way to get from one tree to another.  It was ingenious but more often than not, annoying since several of them would get lost and end up being dumped out on my bed along with the clothes when I got around to folding.
Clever little insects.

Apparently they were having a turf war with another colony.  Three times in one day they gnawed through the towrope we used as clothesline and they didn't look like they were stopping anytime soon.
Jack read my mind and after work on Monday, strung a new, heavier duty line and it seems to have worked.  The ants still march across it but it had yet to be felled by them.

I worked in the entomology field for several years and I know that insects are capable of incalculable good, pollinating crops, disposing of rotting, dead things, aerating soil, and whatnot.  Conversely, they're capable of much worse than chewing down my clothesline.  Sometimes though, I really don't like bugs.

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