The fascinating world of ants

June 13, 2006  
Topics: Belize


It is really surprising how fast we got used to little creatures like bugs. While at the beginning of our trip small, strangely colored spiders made us – rather me – nervous, we now even feel sad if a tarantula dies by accident. We take care about our bugs at “home”, and we feel sorry for everyone leaving its life in a candle. The only thing we cannot be sorry of when they get killed are mosquitos. Sometimes there are limits.

In the last few months we have been observing ants. They are our friends, and our enemies. They clean up for us, or sack our aliments. They sleep by night, and work by day. They are sociable, quite peaceful, but ready to defend their lunch by biting in human extremities. Ants have a leader, prefer to stand and march in a row, get irritated if you bring out the trash (their lunch box), are very strong, and even bring injured colleagues home. Ants are really an amazing folk.

We are staying already for a while in a small fishermen village in the North of Belize. We have lots of time for watching ants. It is not the highway of ants or castle, we are used to from our home, that makes us stunning here. Once, we suddenly saw a 10 cm (4 inches) long lizard slowly moving up-side-down direction exit of our hut. We looked once, but when realizing that something cannot be all right, and looking again, our faces got frozen in amazement. When we came closer we could not believe what is happening. A big bunch of organized ants were transporting a lizard – probably hundred times longer than them! This was incredible. And moreover, after they brought the lizard to their home entrance, a 1 cm wide hole in a wooden jamb (still) holding our hut together. They tried to push the animal in a whole inside. When the ants were realizing that the lizard simply does not fit in, they started to separate it, and brought it step by step inside. It took them about 8 hours until the lizard was gone. Well, nearly. Only the skeleton was left, laying innocent in front of the ants home. Ants are clever, beyond all question. They know that it is our job to clean up the mess.

So it goes on. One day it is a lizard, the next a mosquito, a spider, a butterfly, or even a bigger creatures. Once we found a dead bird on the ground. Ants were, of course, around eating such a festive meal. But instead of eating it like the lizard, they decided to store it. A day or two later the dead body was covered from head to tale with earth. Just a tiny bit of the tale was still looking outside the pile of earth.

Let’s talk about today. A dangerous kind of snake looking lizard was caught with a mousetrap. To give the nature its force, and clean the dead lizard from the mousetrap, the whole thing was put outside. Unsuspecting and curious I was looking at the dying lizard. It really looked snake like. I had not seen this species before. At that time, the lizard was already attacked by ants. And in the two seconds of talking to myself about this fancy creature, I felt painful stitches on both of my feet. Well, they were not stitches, but bites. Red ants, being busy to decompose the lizard, felt I am in THEIR way. Thus they simply bite me. Pitiless. I started jumping my feet with force on the ground and ran off. Anyway, they won at least 10 points (bites).


Some ants are aggressive, some, happily, not- like the ones in our trash bag. It is unbelievable, but whatever these ants classify as edible, they become the owner of it. (Un)Fortunately, what we throw, they welcome as a delicious dinner. Thus, our trash is always covered with big, black ants. They look quite friendly, do not bite, and live in another of our wooden jambs. While they are building up traffic along the wall, we are amused watching their agitated ado. Into the trash bag. Out of the trash bag. When filling in more “trash”, they become a bit nervous, but soon understand it just means more food for them.

Some people might react with disgust about ants in their trash bag. We do not, which has a simple reason. Our old rusty fridge has a small hole in the door’s gasket. We thought this hole will only rise the temperatures in the fridge. We were wrong. Ants found their way inside. An unpleasant situation. They gathered everywhere around the wet top of the fridge. They obviously had a lack of water. We understood their problem, but we had to act. Thus we placed a small bowl full of sugar water about 5 feet away from the fridge on the window sill. And behold, they left the fridge for the sugar water. We could see them in a row of 10 to 20, one beside another, hanging their noses into the sweet liquid. For some of them it became a fatality. They fell into the water and could not find their way out anymore. No rescue team nearby. But the death rate was very low. At the end, we were happy, and they were, too. What do you want more?