At the Dverse Lounge today, we’ve been asked to write about our fears. What follows is a true narrative of my ranch life:
I used to do battle with leaf cutter ants when I worked on the ranch in South Texas. Though theh are tiny, they are indeed a force to be reckoned with. They had somehow arrived in South Texas, and they loved the leaves of the Pecan orchard I tended. They would ford the small stream on leaves, 50 or 100 at a time. I would be fishing the creek and they could be seen in clusters on leaves riding the stream. They disembarked at a Cypress tree and would start looking to biuld a nest.
They build massive underground burroughs. The main mound is about 10 feet across. The ants also create pilot mounds in a radius of about 50 to 100 feet from the main mound. From these pilot mounds they would emerge in the night to raid my pecan trees. They would strip a tree of all its leaves in one night. The leaves would be taken back to the main den underground from the pilot mounds and stored there. The ants did not eat the leaves themselves, but rather dined on the fungus which grew on the decomposing vegetation.
There’s where the serious problem started. For as the mound filled with rotting vegetation, the gasses building up inside it would cause the internal structure of the mound to cavitate and collapse. There would be about two or three feet of soil left on top, which would support the weight of a man, but not a car, tractor, horse or cow. Our bosses favorite Tennessee Walker (horse), fell through the thin crust on top and had to be buried there. Many farmers have had to have tractors towed out of moundd and have been injured by crashing through the mound.
Little feet work fast
Farming in the dark of night
Morning brings a blight