I have my reasons for not liking red ants. Well, I have one, for sure. The summer of the year I turned eight, a sharp pain struck my nether region. Reacting as any mostly-normal eight-year-old by might, I dropped my pants to my knees to see what was going on down there.
And down there—having found the softest parts of a hairless young boy’s body—a red ant had clamped its mandibles onto my skin. After much ill-conceived dancing around with my pants down around my ankles, I flicked the ant free.
I eventually got over my beef with ants. I learned to appreciate them. Ants, for one thing, are the longest living of all insects—some may live for thirty years. If ants were the size of humans, they could lift a car into the air and carry it off. Ant colonies are perfect studies in social structures and cooperative work. Ants clean up debris and help make soil. Research (Holldobler and Wilson, 1990) suggests that the combined weight of all ants on Earth may equal or exceed the combined weight of humans inhabiting Earth.
For the first twenty of so years that I lived out here at the lake, two large red ant colonies thrived on my property. On several occasions, I had to save them from young boys with sticks and intentions to stir the colonies into oblivion. Once, my neighbor, Leo, kindly offered to poison a colony out for me when he discovered it. I declined his offer. “I like them, I told Leo, “I would just as soon keep them.”
And then, one year, having reached the end of some normal cycle, both of my ant colonies died out. That was five or six years ago.
Yesterday, while walking the road that climbs up from the lake to my house, I stepped across a super-highway of red ants crossing the road. After following the ants from end to end. I discovered a new vibrant red ant pile about fifty feet off the road. From the new colony, thousands of ants were scurrying back and forth on a trail that extended across the road and into a juniper bush. The trail stretched something like eighty feet from the colony. Ants returning to the colony were carrying both material for their pile and food stuff.
Bottom line: I like!
I have posted a photograph of the colony and a photograph of ants on the trail. The photographs were captured with my smarter-than-me-phone.