Wednesday, July 4, 2012

My New Neighbours: Red Ants

As a child I had witnessed red ants (Oecophylla sp.) making nests by joining leaves on mango tree. They were fearsome, in hundreds and thousands, moving from one leaf to another, on thick stems of several decades old mango trees. Slight danger will alert them and they will move forward and backward to get on the enemy. They sting and it is really painful.

My childhood memories of  maternal grandfather's mango orchard had just flashed on my mind, when I saw a nest of twisted leaf on the lone mango tree in my garden. I looked around the nest and saw a few red ants in alert. I thought of removing the nest with care so that more nests do not come up over there. The thought of my youngest daughter and grand children getting stung by red ants was in my mind.

Almost transparent red ants (Oecophylla sp.) seen in highly alert position on their nest.

I gently pick up a scissor and tried removing the nest from its base. Half done, I notice movements on my hand but there was nothing visible there. I got panicked, and tried to see more carefully! About half a dozen orange red colour ants were moving on my right hand's skin, they were almost transparent. I jerked my hand to remove them, and ran for a wash. Luckily none had applied their sting.

A red ant (magnified view).

But their look was terrific, their body I can not ignore to admire. What a creation of nature, slender, light coloured and transparent, long legs, dignified, self-respectful, marching on leaves and stem, the march excelling a women fashion parade in the best of attire. What I see more prominent are a pair of eyes on upright face with mandibles open to serve a bite on the intruder.

My love for them gets an upper hand, and I decide not to remove their nest: I take few photos of those alerted red ants and  decide not to remove their lone nest on the young mango tree in my garden. I make a promise to them: They can live there, until of course their number does not multiply beyond a couple of nests! 

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