Some call him the ant whisperer. I find that kind of strange because I know him as the ant killer. :) Yet, he has studied bugs for so many years that he has learned to track movements and patterns that lead him to the bug's front door.
Joe and I had gone out to Panera for dinner last Friday night, to celebrate our seventeen years of marriage. We ordered our food and found a place to sit outside, near the rock wall filled with all sorts of flowers and trees. As we waited for our little buzzer to alert us that our food was ready, I noticed there was quite a lot of movement along the wall to my left. The little brown ants were busy going back and forth across the rocks, hopping over the gaps, sometimes stopping to communicate with each other along the way. Joe identified them as Pavement Ants, and commented how they must have had a home not too far from where we were sitting. He said they do not go too far from their home in search for food, and once they find a food source, they hurry back to inform the others of the goodies they have found. I studied these little guys, fascinated at what I was seeing them do. The ones that came from my left went rather slow, as if seeking something out, but the ones coming from the right went running past quite quickly. These were the ones on their way back to the nest with good news. I dropped a little crumb of bread on the rock and watched to see how long it would take for the ants to find it. Within a minute one of the ants, who was on his way back to the nest, found it. He climbed on it and then took off to let the others know he had found some food.
Then I noticed one of the ants dragging along one of his friends, holding him up high in his little feelers. "Oh look, he is helping his friend get back to his nest!"
Joe gave me a funny look. "No, he is not helping him," he said. "He is taking him back so they can eat him."
I was not so sure this was a nice act of friendship anymore.
"Keep watching where he goes. You will find the entrance to the nest." We watched them go down the side of the rock wall and onto a ledge not one foot away from my chair. Sure enough, we found them going in and out of the spaces in the wall. It was the ants' front door. The little ant carrying "his friend" dropped him at the door and went inside, maybe to get help carrying the dead ant through the small gap. I turned away for a few minutes and when I looked back the dead ant was gone.
Joe went back inside to refill his cup and when he came out he had a sugar packet in his hand. He opened it and sprinkled the sugar on the ledge right in front of the nest. When those ants came out they seemed a bit confused at first. Where did all that sweet stuff come from? It was like manna from heaven to those little guys, sent from above for them to enjoy.
I began to chuckle at the oddity of the moment. Here Joe was, feeding the very little creatures that he kills all day long. I could just picture Panera calling Family Pest Control with a complaint that they were being overrun by ants, when in fact, Joe might have caused the very problem. I looked around for a camera. It would not be a good idea to get the name of our good pest control company splashed with evil for feeding the ants. But I still had some sugar left in my packet that I needed to use up. We finished our meal, put away our dishes, and walked back to the wall. A little farther away was another group of busy ants, slightly larger then the pavement ants. I forget what he called these ants, but they seemed to have a different pattern of search. "Well, they deserve some good food too," I said, and proceeded to dump the rest of the sugar for them to find. It did not take them long to find the sweet stuff and they quickly ran back to their nest to tell the others of their find.
All in all, it was a good night. It was good to spend time with my husband and learn a lot of things from him about ants. I liked seeing the kind side of him when it comes to bugs...he does not need to kill all the time. Just when they are overrunning someone's home. My home included. But outside, where they are simply doing their job, you can learn a lot about them. Even the Bible has something to say about the ant..."Go to the ant, thou sluggard; and consider her ways, and be wise." Proverbs 6:6. It is no wonder that his customers call him the Ant Whisperer. :)