Seaside and Wayside, Book Two  by Julia McNair Wright

The Ants on a Trip

T HE round hole in the ant-hill is called the gate. The ants can close it with a bit of stone. Often there are two, three, or even more, gates for one ant-hill. Once I saw a hill with six large gates.

Now I will tell you of a very queer ant-hill. It was made by big black ants, in a little valley between two hills of sand.

Into this valley had blown a very large sheet of thick paper. It had been around a ham and was very greasy. It had lain on the ground, crumpled up, in sun, and snow, and rain, for a year.

By that time it was hard and stiff, and weeds had grown up about it. One day, as I was going by, I saw ants running in and out of the folds of the paper. I took a stick and turned the top fold open like a lid.

It was full of ants and of white pupa-cases. The ants, I think, liked the folds of the paper for halls, and the larger wrinkles for rooms. They had found out how to have a house without much work in making it.

When I opened this paper-hill, they ran in swarms to pick up the white bundles. Poor things! They did not know where to go for safety. So I laid the lid of their house back in its place, and soon they were quiet again.

Now I will tell you how ants move from one house to another. One day I saw by my garden path a line of ants moving all one way. They were black ants.

They went two by two, or one and two, close to each other. Every one had in its jaws a white bundle. I found that they all came from an ant-hill. They came up out of the gate very fast, one by one, each with its bundle.

About two or three inches from this line of ants I saw another line. This line went to  the hill, not from  it. They went in good order.

They had no bundles when they went into the hill; when they came out, each had a bundle, and joined the other line of ants.


On the March

I went along with the stream of ants that had the white bundles. I found that they went to a new hill, about thirty feet from the old hill.

There they laid down their bundles, and went back to the old hill to bring more. The bundles lay heaped in a ring all about the gate of the new city.

Out of this gate ran other ants in haste. They caught up the bundles, one by one, and carried them in. In about half an hour they were nearly all taken in, and the ants brought no more. The moving was over.


On the March

With a long blade of grass, I gently took up a little bundle. I hid it behind a stone, some six inches off. I took three bundles and hid them, lifting them with the tip of the grass-blade.

When all the bundles left at the hill were carried in, the ants went down the gates. But in a minute out came three or four ants. They ran about wildly and searched the ground.

They went in circles and looked over the ground with much care. The circles grew wider. At last one came up behind the stone and found the bundles.

The ant picked up one bundle and ran. Then this ant met the other ants, and, I think, told them the news. For at once the other ants ran up to the stone, and each took up a bundle.

Then they all ran into the hill. Can ants count? That looked as if they knew how many bundles they had. It also looked as if they knew that two ants must go for two bundles.

A man who took bundles from a march in this way thinks that the ants smell the hidden bundles. He says they will not search for them if you hide them in the earth.