Friday, October 17, 2008

The Leaf Cutter War

We are at war with the leaf cutter ants. We must have millions of them. This is the curly leaf tree (I haven't learned its real name yet) after they've been eating on it today. I looked at this tree earlier in the week, and all the leaves were intact. If you lean in close, you can hear them chomping away. Sounds like a bowl of Rice Krispies, snap, crackle, pop!

Here they are, running along the branch with their trophies.

And running across the yard.

And running down the wall.

And looking for their hole, which Don messed up, so they're running around trying to figure out what happened. The first time we ever saw leaf cutter ants we were in the jungle in Belize, and I thought they were kind of cute and fascinating to watch. I've changed my mind. They are ruthless, voracious predators and can strip a plant down to the stems in a very short time. When they've finished one plant or tree, they'll move on to another. We've noticed that the hibiscus bushes recover after awhile as long as they are left alone. Merlin says they have killed some of her plants though. She brought us a bag of Mirex to dump in their holes. I don't like using stuff like that, but nothing else seems to work and we've got to stop them before our yard is bare. We have a small flamboyant tree that they strip bare, it recovers partially and they strip it bare again. I don't know if it will survive or not.

Don had a nasty encounter with some small black ants while hunting down the leaf cutters. He accidentally stepped on their hill, and they were all over his feet in a flash, viciously biting him. They really hurt, too, like fire ants. He had accidentally stepped on another hill earlier in the week, and his feet are still covered with those bites. Now he has even more.

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