Seaside and Wayside, Book Two  by Julia McNair Wright

The Farmer Ants

Y OU have heard of the spider which makes a den in the ground. You know that it puts a trap-door on its den, and plants ferns on the door to hide it.

The spider turns gardener in this way, and all his plants grow well. There is an ant that has a farm, or garden.

This ant lives in warm lands. In this country they are found in Texas, Florida, and in one or two other warm States.

These farmer ants raise grain to eat. The grain is a kind of grass with a large seed. It is called by some "ant-rice."

There is also a large ant which is fond of the seeds of the sunflower. It is said that the ants plant the sunflowers in a ring around their hill.


The Little Farmer

The ants have not been seen  to carry the seed and plant it. So we may not be quite  sure that they do so. Perhaps they build where they see young sunflower plants growing.


An Ant's Grain Field

It is possible that the ant plants seeds of some kinds. You see there are yet in the world many things left for you to find out. It will be well for you to keep your eyes open.

The farmer ants do not live in a small hill that you could cover with your hand. Their hill, or disk, is sometimes flat, and sometimes high. It is often as large as a large room. It is in the shape of a circle.

In this circle all weeds and all kinds of grasses are cut down, except the one kind which the ants like. The earth of the disk is kept clean and smooth. Only the seeds of the ant-rice are left to grow.

When the ant-rice is ripe, the ants pick up the seeds as they fall, and take them into the hill to their storerooms.

It is most likely that as the ants let this ant-rice, and nothing else, grow on their hills, it sows itself by its fallen seed.

Still the ants are real farmers, as they keep their land clean, tend and gather the crop, store it up, and eat it.

When the ant-rice is ripe, and the seeds have fallen, the ants cut down the old stems, and take them away. The disk is then clean for the next crop.

The ants will go a long way from their hill to find seeds to bring home. They like to go where horses have fed, for there they find scattered oats. In some lands they carry off much grain from the fields.

An ant in Florida climbs the stalk of the millet and cuts off the seeds. When ants take seeds to their hill, they husk and clean them. They throw bad seeds away.

The ants watch the seeds, and after rains carry them out to dry in the sun. This is because if left wet, they would sprout and grow.

Some ants also cut the seed, so that it will not sprout.

The ants eat the seeds that they gather. They also feed their young with them.

One ant in Florida rolls up into little balls the dust, or pollen, of pine cones, and stores that up to eat.

An ant in New Jersey cuts in pieces the little new pine trees, just as they get above the ground, and carries them to its nest.

Did you ever see the ant which likes sunflower seeds to eat? It is a large ant, and when it has climbed to the disk of the sunflower, it pulls out one of the ripe seeds and carries it away.

When people keep a nest of ants in order to watch their ways, they feed them with sugar, oats, apple-seeds, and wheat.

How does the ant eat the hard grain? Its tongue is like a file, or something like that of the little shellfish of which I told you. The ant can rasp, file, and press the grain, so it can get at and lick up the oil and juice.