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Ants A Word In Their Favor


Ants come in for a share of condemnation. This little industrious
insect shall have my endeavors for a fair hearing; I think I can
understand why they are so frequently accused of robbing bees. Many
bee-keepers are wholly ignorant, most of the time, of the real
condition of their stocks. Many causes independent of ants, induce a
reduction of population. Suppose the bees are so reduced as to leave
the combs unprotected, and the ants enter and appropriate some of the
honey to themselves, and should the owner come along just then and see
them engaged, "Ha! you are the rascals that have destroyed my bees,"
without a thought of looking for causes, beyond present appearances.
They are often unjustly accused by the farmer of injuring the growth of
his little trees, by causing the tender leaves to curl and wither.
Inquiries are often made in some of the agricultural papers for means
to destroy them, merely because they are found on them; when the real
cause of the mischief is with the plant louse, (aphis) that is upon the
leaves or stalk in hundreds, robbing them of their important juices,
and secreting a fluid greatly prized by the ants. By destroying the
lice, you remove all the attraction of the ants. The peculiar habits of
the small black ants, probably give rise to a suspicion of mischief in
this way. They live in communities of thousands--their nests are
usually in old walls, in old timber, under stones, and in the earth.
From their nests a string may be traced sometimes for rods, going
after, and returning laden with food. During a spell of wet weather,
such as would make the earth and many other places too damp and cold
for a nest, they look out for better quarters. The top or chamber of
our bee-hives affords shelter from rain. The animal heat from the bees
renders it perfectly comfortable. How then can we blame them for
choosing such a location, so completely answering all their wants? As
long as the bees are not disturbed, we can put up with it better. But
the careless observer having discovered their train to and fro from
their nest on the hive, exclaims: "Why, I have seen them going in a
continual stream to the hive after honey;" when a little scrutiny into
the matter would show that only the nest was on the top of the hive,
and they were going somewhere else for food; not one to be seen
entering the hive among the bees for honey, (at least I never could
detect it.)

When honey is unprotected by bees, or boxes of it placed where they can
have access, as a natural consequence, they will carry off some; but it
is easily secured.

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