Seaside and Wayside, Book Two  by Julia McNair Wright

Wonder Ants

Y OU may perhaps read of what are called "Termites," or White Ants. You must not think that these are true ants, for they are not. They belong to another Order of insects. They have four wings all of the same size. But true ants have one pair of wings smaller than the other.

The white ants live in the ground and also in trees. They do much harm by gnawing wood and trees. They swarm into houses, and eat the tables and chairs and such things. They eat all kinds of food. They are much like real ants in their ways. There are many of them in our country.

Now you must hear about the ants that keep cows. I have told you that ants like honey. They take all their food by lapping and sucking it. They suck honey from flowers.

If you look at the plants in the garden or house, you may see on the leaves some very small green things, that seem to eat the leaves. Your mother will tell you these are "plant lice," and that they spoil her plants.

The name of this little insect is Aphis. That is a very pretty name. The aphis is very small, and is often of the color of the leaf it feeds on.

This wee thing can make honey in its body much as bees do. But the aphis does not store up the honey; it drops it on the leaf as it feeds. This is called "honey dew."

The ants eat the honey dew from the leaves, and they know that it comes from the aphis. They stroke and tap the aphis with their feelers, so that more dew will be let fall.

Have you seen the milkmaid go from cow to cow, and fill her pail with milk? So the ants go from one aphis to another, until they get all the honey they want.

The ants can carry home this honey, and give it to other ants. The nurse ants will carry it to the baby ants. The workers take it to the queens, owners, and soldiers.

The aphis is called the "ant's cow." A hill of ants will seem to own a herd of these wee green Cows. They go to them on their leaf, and get the honey. They know and claim their own cows. It is just like having a drove of cows in pasture, as the farmer does.

You know that people often keep cows in stables and feed them there. The ant has this way also. There is a kind of aphis that loves the dark and feeds on roots. Some ants keep a herd of these, hidden in the ground. They pet, stroke, and clean them to get their honey dew.

Ants have been seen to fight for days over a herd of aphis-cows. One hill of ants had no cows, and they tried to steal the cows that belonged to another hill. After four days the lady that watched them got twenty cows, and gave them to the hill that had none. Then the war ended.

The ants which got the new cows seemed very glad. They licked and petted the cows, and put them in a safe place. They took honey from them and fed the soldiers.

This seems just like a fairy tale. But it is quite true. All these things can be seen if you look out or them. But you must be patient and anxious to learn.

In warm summer days, when your mother tells you that it is too hot to run about much, what will you do? Why not make a tent of an umbrella, placed near an ant-hill, and watch these pretty and curious little creatures?