McGee: Harvester ants possess remarkable work ethic

While riding my bicycle along one of our county roads, I stopped to contemplate a harvester ant colony.

I should tell you I’m an admirer of harvester ants. These ants are those big ones that make low, wide ant hills. I like them for their pure work ethic, because they seem to know just what to do in life: March out into the world, find a bit o’ food and bring it back home.

They do this over and over and over and over again. Apparently they have no worries; no concerns about a mortgage, the price of gasoline or if the kids are growing up all right.

This particular day dozens of the little critters were all huddled in the sun around the colony entrance. I imagined that these were new arrivals, having hatched just as cold weather was approaching.

These ants would be the ones who would overwinter underground.

“Okay, listen up you guys,” says an old ant to the assembled multitude. “You guys are the ones who are going to take care of things ‘til next spring. Then you’ll dig out the colony entrance when it warms up. Meanwhile us old guys are going to die.”

“Die? Die?” exclaimed many in the crowd.

“Who’s going to teach us what to do?” shouted one ant from the crowd.

“Observe for the next few days,” says the old guy. “After that, you’ll figure it out. It’s called instinct. It’s pretty simple really: Feed the queen, maintain things then dig out in the spring.

By the way, it’s gonna get cold and you’ll move slow or not at all. So enjoy the sun while you can. Have a nice day.”

Then the crowd split up.

I suppose I could do some research and find out what really was going on at the ant colony entrance, but where’s the fun in that?

I hopped on my bicycle and pedaled on home.