Seaside and Wayside, Book Two  by Julia McNair Wright

The Ant's Home

A NTS live in nests, made in the earth. We call them ant-hills, from the shape of the part that is above ground. It is the queen ant who begins to build the ant-hill.


The New Home

Like the mother wasp, the ant works on her nest until enough ants grow up to do all the work. After that, like the queen bee, she does no work. The work ants will not allow her to go from home.

When the ant finds a place for her home, how does she take off her wings? They would be in her way while she worked. She presses the edge of a wing upon the ground and so pushes it up and loosens the hook, just as you unhook a dress. Then she begins to dig. She acts at first much as your dog does when he digs after a chipmunk or a rabbit.

The ant lays her big head close to the ground. With her fore-feet she digs up the soil, and tosses it back between her hind legs. She digs as her cousin, Mrs. Wasp, digs.

She keeps waving her little feelers, as if to find out the kind of soil. Soon she has a hole deep enough to cover her body. It is too deep for her to throw out the dirt with her feet. Now she uses her feet, and her jaws, also, to dig with.


Sappers and Miners

Where the soil is sandy, she takes it out, grain by grain. At first, she must back out of her hole. Soon her hall-way is so wide that she can turn about after she has backed a few steps.

Ants are very kind to each other in their work. If they push or tread on each other in their haste, they never fight about it.

The ants know how to work and how to rest. After a little hard work they stop, clean their bodies, take some food, and sleep.

As the making of the hall goes on, the ants bite off with their jaws bits of dirt, and roll them up with their feet. They soon use the hind part of the body to press and push the earth into a firm ball. These balls are carried out and laid by the door. By degrees the balls form the "ant-hill."

When the hall is two or three inches long, they make a room. Then they make more halls and more rooms. The rooms are for eggs, for larvæ, for pupæ, and for food.


Sappers and Miners

People who have studied much about ants have had them build nests in glass jars. Thus they have been able to see how they work.

To make a room, the ants often have to stand on their hind legs, and bite the earth off, as they reach up their heads. Sometimes the ant lies on its side, to clean off or smooth the side wall. They have been seen at work, lying on their backs, as men do in mines.

The jaws of the ant have tiny teeth. In old work ants the teeth are often quite worn off. The feet and jaws of the ant are well made for digging. The feet have small hairs. By the aid of these the ants can run up a piece of glass, or hang on a wall, as you would say, "upside down."

An ant-hill is made of very many little halls and rooms. Some open into each other; some do not. The rooms are bedrooms, nurseries, pantries, and dining rooms. Many of the rooms are shaped like a horseshoe. Some are round.

The ants press and knead the floors and walls to make them hard and smooth. Sometimes they line them with a sticky soil, like paste, to keep the earth from falling in.

Some ants seem to make a kind of glue, or varnish, with which they line their walls.