As if birds and butterflies were not confusing enough to learn about, I decided to join a walk about ants. So far I had learnt to recognise weaver ants and stay away from their sting.
Unlike the early hours required for birding the day started at a comfortable time. As in the case of most nature walks in Bangalore, this one started in Lalbagh as well.
The walk started with us being asked to draw an ant. That was when it dawned on most of us that we had seen one, but never observed one.
Much like other insects ants have 3 pairs of legs, a head, thorax and an abdomen. Between the thorax and abdomen they have the petiole which may contain nodes and spine.
Armed with this initial knowledge we started to look for ants. We took one step and lo! behold we found 2 species scurrying away.Our expert for the walk was Sunil Kumar, (Author of ‘On a trail with Ants’), he quickly picked an ant up, and while he got bitten he showed us example of what he had explained in theory.
Ants were turning out to be very interesting creatures, while I knew they lived in colonies and it was controlled by the Queen, I didn't know the extent of control the queen had.
The Queen mates once in a life time and stores the sperms, she then lays eggs in batches. For the first batch she finds an ideal spot and lays eggs, tends to them and feeds the larva. These are then the first set of workers who takes on the work of tunnelling, foraging, nursing etc. Normally older ants are sent out to forage and fight, this way even if they die the loss is minimal. Queen also decides when the off-spring will be male and when it will be female or a queen. The male and queen ants are born with wings, so that they can fly away and mate.
Each nest has its own defence mechanism and pattern. You will find fiery ants disperse a lot of sand/ mud around their nest. Godzilla ants will have decorations (flowers, feathers) around its nest. Weaver ants weave leaves together to make nests.
In some sense ants are like humans, just like we are divided by caste they are divided by the work they do.Ants also have varied diet some are vegetarians and feed on seeds and grains. Some love fruits and nectars While some are non vegetarians feeding on other insects and ants.In some case size of the ants vary according to the task they do. Like in the case of Godzilla Ant the bigger ants are soldiers, medium ants foliages and smaller ants tend to the nests.
While we soaked all this information, people in Lalbagh found it amusing that kids and adults alike were on their fours crawling and looking at the ground. They stopped by at the tree we were starring at trying to figure what we were looking at. I think we provided a lot of free amusement to a lot of people that day.
Finally when it was announced that the 2 hours were up I was shocked. It didn't feel like 2 hours and we had hardly walked more than few meters.
As I walked towards the breakfast joint I couldn't help think how I was lucky to have found EcoEdu group and be part of this amazing walk.