Remember the tiny tigers? Now go down another level. Gardeners know that the problem with trails of ants on their beloved and treasured plants is … that those ants protect scale insects. And scale insects are a problem because they take the sap from MY Plants, and use it for THEMSELVES. GRRR!
But here at Elephant’s Eye we garden for wildlife. We share. Some for us, some for whatever wildlife is friendly. So put aside that grownup GRRR ants and scale insects mentality and come with me. Retrieve your childhood sense of wonder … here and now … Step down into Macroworld like Alice in Wonderland.
Start in your herb garden with basil. You grow it to use in the kitchen. Bees love it, and in our last garden late afternoon the flying crayfish would come. (In the USA you call them humming bird hawk moths? But if you look at it, it is really a soft, furry flying crayfish. That tail is more like a crayfish, than a crayfish tail is!)
Our dairy farmer is the Small Black Sugar Ant, Lepisiota capensis, as African as the Nguni. Full marks to this little creature who is able to take on the mighty Argentine ant – whose colonies are HUGE, according to the book.
|Farmer Giles and Daisy|
His cows are Soft Brown Scale, Coccus hesperidum. When young they are light brown and flat, when older they are domed and dark brown. And the black ones have parasites (down another level or 3!). Ants seek them out for their honeydew. They lack functional legs, the body is just a bag for eggs. These universal insects are related to cochineal. As a vegetarian I REALLY don’t want to eat red food dye, which is crushed bugs, do you? I’ll pass, on the food dye. I’d rather have food coloured food thanks. Shellac would also slot into this family.
Building a shelter to protect ‘cows’ from parasites and predators. We don’t need Anatolian sheepdogs to fend off the Cape leopard. These are milch cows, not woolly sheep. See how the ants remove the bark, to expose the channel of sap, to feed their livestock. A sustainable harvest of sap to produce honeydew for a model farmer.
Remember the weaver bird’s nest. And the sociable weavers. Now meet the really tiny weavers. Again role models whose raw materials for building are sustainable. Nature provides fibre for these little ants, living on our perennial basil – what my mother called a basil TREE in the last garden. Over the years it does produce a graceful gnarled and (g)knotted ‘trunk’ and ‘branches’ with ‘growth rings’ where the plant was harvested (by the cook and flower arranger!)
|Welcome to … our humble home!|
The pictures are the Ungardener’s SuperMacros, and the facts are from ‘Field guide to Insects of South Africa by Mike Picker et. al. Updated 2004’
PS It is 11 in the morning and the temperature is already 33C on our shady verandah. That is 91F, when I was a child, before we metricated, we used to talk about, 90 in the shade.