Thursday, May 07, 2009

But cats sleep most of the time

I haven't photographed many ants. They're easy enough to find; I know of two active anthills within a minute's walk. But they never sit for a photo. They never rest. They're always running, milling about, disappearing down cracks. Busy, busy, busy.

That doesn't stop me from trying.

A very tiny (4mm) ant hitched a ride on some Japanese knotweed sprouts that I was bringing home for supper. I rescued her (I'm assuming she's not a drone) before she went down the drain, and put her aside to calm down (Hah! Dreamer!) in a plastic container. When I looked at her again, she was energetically grooming herself.

Cleaning a middle leg.

She ran each leg and the antennae through her jaws, she combed each leg with another, she scraped at her backside with the cleaned legs, and washed the legs again, as thorough as a cat. And like a grooming cat, she tied herself up in the most amazing knots.

Four legs on the right, two on the left.

Now, four legs on the left.

At times, she would bend her waist at a right angle, with the final segment (the gaster) straight up in the air. A minute later, she would be scrunched into a ball, with no waist visible.

The ants' anatomy is always a source of wonderment to me. How is it that they carry all that big weight at the end, on such a tiny support beam? But then, they carry around leaves and twigs and wasps many times their size, holding them in their jaws. A balancing act; the big butt at one end, the large square head, with cargo, at the other. But that waist does look so fragile!

Ant underside. Trying to find a crack to escape through.

The ant is now wandering around a few maple flowers in a pill bottle. Day and night; does she never sleep? When it stops raining, I'll take her back to the knotweed patch.

This thing about looking insects in the eyes: it has consequences. You can't just think of them as "bugs" any more; can't just squash them. You have to be responsible. You have to be polite.



  1. I really love the way you look at the world and enjoy your blog so much.

    The other day as I was driving down the road my car antenna snagged a butterfly and bent the poor guy(?) the wrong way. I pulled over. He was flying a little crooked but was able to fly and I thought that was promising.

    My son and I then had an engaging conversation about why humans feel the need to rescue a pretty insect, like a butterfly, but think nothing of squashing the ones we consider ugly or insignificant, or a nuisance.

    Great pictures :)

  2. How appropriate..Just as I was referring to you and your blog in my blog confirm your love of small things..
    I know I haven't commented lately on your blog...I read it.
    You might want to read my latest post..I have something you might be able to ID..or not..

  3. Thanks, "Maille",
    I love that! Stopping to rescue a butterfly; I would do that, too.

    Dawn; heading over there right now.

  4. I didn't know ants groomed themselves - that's fascinating.


If your comment is on a post older than a week, it will be held for moderation. Sorry about that, but spammers seem to love old posts!

Also, I have word verification on, because I found out that not only do I get spam without it, but it gets passed on to anyone commenting in that thread. Not cool!