Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Mysterious ants

This summer I acquired a new ant hill near the road. I guess I'd call it medium sized though certainly of a small enough size that I've found it impossible to photograph the occupants. Then one day this past week, I noticed that I had suddenly had a second ant hill about 8-10 feet down the pike from the first. There was a great flurry of activity between the two mounds. Not very photographable, I fear, had I had presence of mind to try.

However, the next day I noticed that the entrance to ant hill #1 had been completely closed down (above) and all activity was taking place at #2 Ant Hill Place. Things were so quiet at #1 that a small snail moseyed across the grains of sand so laboriously excavated. All these changes certainly caused me to wonder what suddenly went wrong with the house where the colony had happily resided for several months.

Here is the new premise (above), with a large welcoming entrance complete with a small pebble to secure the hole. The excavated sand heap isn't nearly as high as at #1, but the ants appeared to be busy moving boulders.

That was the situation for a couple of days, but now there's a new wrinkle to the story. Today, a handful of ants was at work at the old place, where an entrance had been re-opened. Not a big hole, but big enough. I am puzzled. Left with questions for the ecologistt Sson or the soil scientist SIL. For instance, what would cause an entire colony to pick up stakes and move next door; couldn't be anything that I had done, though maybe all that to-ing and fro-ing involving the Pinzgauer might have had some effect. What are those guys who stayed behind up to; was there a revolution that they sat out? If a colony splits in two to accommodate growth, how do individual ants know which crowd to join? There you have it, my curiosity of the day.


TomboCheck said...

Ants are tricky sons of guns. Wouldn't surprise me at all if they were planning something along the lines of world domination.....

Granny J said...

Right you are, Tombo -- why else do you think I'm keeping such close tabs on those tricky guys?

John said...

There was a U. S. govt archologist who "studied" the ant midden piles at Chaco Canyon (NM) as the gov't ran out of funds and he could no longer "dig". He was able to map vast tracks of the Chaco plane using this method and recorded numerous individual food larders to entire previous unknown pueblos and villages. These were mapped, recorded and sent to the Smithsonian.
The ants would travel down 3-4 "stories" and reveal in their midden what the rooms below held, grain husks, seeds, feathers (parrot from Central America - trade), sea shell, flint (tool napping) , bone & charcoal fragments and turquoise. I don't recall his name or if he published.
Very interesting work!

Granny J said...

welcome, john -- I'm always interested to hear from defenders of ants like you and my son-in-law. Your tale is quite fascinating. You might find this old post about ants of interest...and do come again!

Desert Cat said...

I watched this same event with an ant colony in the lot across the street from my house. They up and moved about thirty feet south for no discernable reason. The old site has been completely abandoned for some time now.

Perhaps some mold or disease took hold in the old mound, and a change of residence was required for survival? I don't know.

Granny J said...

DC -- I thought that perhaps they had hit granite or maybe a difficult layer of caliche -- or been flooded in our recent heavy rains. Don't suppose I'll ever really know.

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