Ant colonies: Therapy for working man

By Grant McGee: local columnist

Have you heard about that movie called “The Ant Bully?” It’s that age-old story of a little boy destroying an ant hill. The kid ends up being shrunk and having to help the ants rebuild their home.

I think most of us have obliterated an ant hill with water, fire or by stomping on it. The kid in the movie is getting a hefty helping of karma bestowed upon him. You know karma. It’s that the old concept of “What goes around comes around,” or “You reap what you sow.”

It made me think of the ant colony in our front yard. It didn’t come back this year. Maybe it was just its time or that deep freeze last December did it in. With its passing I learned that ant colonies don’t go on forever. Just like the rest of us they have a lifespan.

This particular colony was a pretty big operation. At its peak there were so many ants running around that it looked like a miniature city. Tiny paths wound through the grass, just like little Llano Estacados and Prince Streets.

The ants were busy, busy, busy; bringing seeds in, picking tiny pebbles out. For being such hard workers I’d reward them with a Ritz cracker every now and then. They would demolish it in less than an hour. I can just imagine if a giant Ritz cracker landed on top of Clovis. It would take weeks for us all to agree what to do about it, then months to cart it away.
I’ve come to appreciate ants for the hard little workers they are. They don’t have to worry about bills, drama, family problems, career advancement, shopping or anything really. They just get going, do their job and keep doing it. Each ant hill is a little society; they even tend aphids like we tend dairy cows.

One summer I went through a period fondly referred to by my pals as “Grant’s Ant Phase.” I’d get off work, go back to my pad, change into some shorts and a Hawaiian “flowerdy” shirt, grab my chaise lounge and relax under a shade tree while I watched my friendly neighborhood ant colony in action. The ants would come and go and go and come; bringing in seeds, taking out husks, cleaning out tiny pebbles as they continued to expand their city underground.

My friends thought I needed therapy. What they didn’t understand was watching the ants was therapy.

One time a lady friend baked some green chile cornbread for me. I couldn’t eat it all so I left a few chunks for my ant buddies. When I came home that afternoon there were dead ants lying all around the anthill. I promptly got on the phone to my buddy Kent and told him whats-her-name was trying to poison me.

“Why do you think this?” he asked calmly.
“Because I fed her cornbread to my ants and they’re dying.”
“That’s one way to kill ants, feed them cornmeal,” he said. “They eat it and swell up and die.”
I felt real bad.

Listen, I know people think ants are pests. And everyone’s heard about those nasty fire ants. But if there’s an ant colony around my hacienda I’m probably going to leave it alone. I admire them for their industriousness and their work ethic. You go ahead and do what you will with your ant colony. It’s your karma, not mine.

Grant McGee hosts the weekday morning show on KTQM-FM in Clovis. Contact him at:
blisscreek@plateautel.net