We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
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Thursday, June 25. 2009
"Were you out there praying in the garden?" Mrs. BD asked me later. "No." I said. "I was watching ants."
I spent around a half hour on Satuday afternoon sitting in the dirt watching ants. Few things can be more absorbing. (Or maybe I should say that everything in life can be absorbing if you sit for a minute.)
In doing final garden clean-up, I had to move a big old 4X4 garden edger to another spot and, naturally, uncovered a black ant nest full of eggs or pupae - I think pupae because you could see something inside the egg-like shape.
Almost instantly, the worker ants (both the big ones and the little) and the soldier ants grabbed an egg and ran for cover, scattering in all directions. After about 5 minutes, each ant with egg in mandible headed over to the right, over a rock and into a hole in a pile of garden mulch. In about 15 minutes, every one of around 200 eggs had been carried off to safety by a line or marching ants, back and forth like Chinese coolies.
Ants are said to represent 18-25% of the animal biomass of the planet - higher in the tropics. There is nothing as adaptible as the family Formicidae. They are hymenoptera - evolved from wasps, and all still have tiny stingers.
Ant social behavior is interesting, but their specialization, their physical specialization, and their chemical communication is more so.
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"Oops, there goes...another...rubber tree plant!"
Finally, it ain't just me! I thought I was the only Amateur Ant Watcher. I spent hours as a kid growing up in Arizona watching Harvester ants walk their little trails back to the nest. And yes, ants have a stinger. Harvester ants can REALLY nail you, but good. That formic acid gets a good hurt going, big time.
Ah, the hot summer days of my Southern California childhood. And Pop kept a six inch diameter magnifying glass in his desk.
ha. ha. Skook.. sorry... not that funny... just unexpected. Did you all tape bullfrogs to a board, tilt the board up slightly and roll BB's down and have the frog snap 'em up? They automatically open their mouths and eat the BB. A big frog can take a load. Then you untape them and they can't hop. My brother learned that at Boy Scout camp. Bullfrog Boarding.
I was fishing in SC and stepped into a fire ant nest. They went wild. So did I. Hurt so bad, I cried for two days as the blisters festered.
Bullfrogs, there's a big one living right outside my office door, in the dogs' water dish, which i have a drip feed keeping full. The guy is absent during the day, but up to his neck in the water every evening. when i walk by he looks at me like "who the hell are YOU?"
I used Dad's magnifying glass to good effect in Augusts and Septembers, when afternoons might reach 104 or so. It was an era of exploration. Once around that age I decided to lock myself in the bathroom, put a stopper in the sink and mix up all the chemicals from the cabinet underneath. I came out of there gasping for breath and seeing stars. I once recounted this to an Army chemical warfare guy who guessed that I had synthesized phosgene gas. CO + Cl2 ? COCl2 (?Hrxn = ?107.6kJ/mol). I'm not too sure about that - but I seemingly did have both directed energy and chemical warfare skills down pat.
Of course, Pop knew of my attempts at clandestine chemistry experimentation and was not amused... to say the least.
...you probably mixed up some Messerschmitt Me163 Komet fuel --
Possibly. I know I had a plan to build a three stage Moon rocket out of trash cans, so this may have been some way related. Hey, if I had pulled it off I would have been the lowest bidder.
"There's One Small Step For Man and boy am i gonna get it when i get home"
We made a powerful weapon once. No doubt, lowest bidders ever, too. My father was a professor at the Army Command and General Staff College at Ft. Leavenworth. So many foreign dignitaries in and out that the army made the fort impenetrable and disguised as a farm by putting herds of cows in many of the thousands of surrounding acres. Like Ft. Bragg where they train special ops. From a spy plane, the forts just look like farms with lots of out houses and such. We had a beer can launcher that was made out of tough metal. You stuck the pole in the ground, the beer can over a perfectly sized cylinder with a little hole in it for a tiny firecracker. It would shoot the beer can a thousand feet into the air. No kidding. As we were always going on hikes and baloney sandwich picnics to the outlying fields, we decided to spice up the day by taking our special launcher along. We tired of staring up into the sun watching our can-missiles fly off and stopped to eat our bagged sandwiches. That lead to throw pieces of baloney and trying to make them stick to the barbed wire on the nearby fence that held a large herd of cows from coming for our Twinkies once we got to dessert. Much laughing ensued from the baloney hanging from the fence, and a few curious cows wandered over to see what cool thing was hanging on their fence. We decided something on the spot that was very cool. Let's use the beer can launcher in the horizontal position and can-smack a cow. We loaded up amidst lots of laughing, lighted the fuse and aimed at one cow that had turned to walk back to the gang. It's hard to tell the rest because it happened so fast and so deadly and we were suddenly running faster than we'd ever run in our lives, but that can shot off and whapped that homeward-bound cow in the fanny so hard, she let out some eerie sound and bucked so hard and ran even faster in the other direction than we were that it set all the cows to stampeding. They were all running in circles and making noises we didn't know cows could make and so were we. ........... I think I just relived it. My heart is pounding.
I like them best when they're outside, not in the kitchen, which they are presently. FWIW, they like the fancy coffee creamer, in fact they float in it.
Edward O. Wilson, the ant man...his several books are a good read...especially during the summer...in a hammock...with a tall glass of iced tea...and your specimen nearby for reference.
When I find an ant nest I step back and nuke it from a distance. Its the only way to be sure the little bastids are finished. Them and their wasp, hornet, and yellow jacket ancestors. Nuke 'em all and let Gaia sort 'em out, that's what I say.
Ants are fine, as long as they don't tunnel under the terrace.
Over the years (until they started opening holes between the tiles and I could get at them) they caused my terrace to subside by some 4", they dug out that much dirt from under it.
They may be small and useful, but they can be extremely destructive as well.