Wednesday, July 22, 2015

cleanup on aisle 2

You all know the fable of the ant and the grasshopper.  It is one of the most popular of Aesop's fables.

While the grasshopper sings away the summer, the ant works diligently to store up for the winter.  When winter hits, the grasshopper begs the ant for sustenance, arguing that he provided his songs in the summer.  The ant, in rebuke, suggests the grasshopper should try dancing through the winter.

Well, we do not have winter in Melaque.  Sure, the months we know as winter in the northern hemisphere show up on our calendars.  But nothing even resembling cold weather accompanies them.  Any local version of the grasshopper and the ant would severely suffer in the snow scene.

What we do have is a regular die-off of creatures throughout the year.  Especially, when the rain starts.  I suspect the rain drops batter the insects to death.

After each rain, my courtyard is strewn with the corpses of crickets, beetles, flies, wasps, dragonflies, and the like.  I wondered where all of those tiny corpses ended up.

Now I know.  The moment the rain stops, the cleanup crews arrive.  Tiny ants the size of pepper grains.  Once they find a tasty morsel, they hustle it back to their nest.

And I do not mean they dismember it and take it back to the nest.  The behavior I see in northern ants.

Maybe the heat would ruin their dinner if they butchered it on the spot.  Instead, the ants form a mob, pick up the behemoth meal, and cart it home.  I am certain the weight equivalent would be the same as asking a group of fraternity brothers to pick up a semi and move it twenty miles.

I have watched the ants at their work.  Moving along flat ground is interesting enough.  But when they encounter a wall or a step, they merely hoist the corpse over the obstacle.

On Sunday, I watched the ants cart the remains of a cricket up the side of a planter.  (It may have been a symbolic reference to the ultimate end of the fabled grasshopper.)

Yesterday, I watched the pictured ants move what appeared to be the tail of a gecko up over my door stoop and down the other side.  I would have pointed out to them that going around the stoop would be easier, but they would not have listened.  I suspect ants are the most conservative of insects.  And, perhaps, the most productive.

There are a ream of morals drawn from this particular tale.  But none are quite as interesting as the Fractured Fairy Tale version where the ant sings all summer while the ant toils.  When winter arrives, the grasshopper jumps in his convertible with a curvaceous blond and heads off to Florida -- leaving the ant to survive the winter.

I rather like that one.

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