The Case Of A Curious Ant

Sunday, June 23, 2019

During our wild wet spring, my plant-identifying phone app alerted me to a gratuitous sunflower sprouting in an otherwise empty flower bed beside my house. Recently, I had been reminded of, years-ago, experiencing a sense of delight upon spotting a giant sunflower in the arms of a person walking ahead of me. I decided to let this new sprout grow and hoped for an ultimate gigantic “flower of sunshine”.

I even delighted in recording its growth progress.

The plant stayed upright and healthy-looking for weeks, but one day I noticed a black ant parked on it. This was curious because I like ants and pretty much am familiar with the varieties inhabiting my place. This ant was unusual looking and I took note.

A few days later, I paused to admire my sunflower and noticed several of its leaves looking ragged, where each leaf junctions to its spine (which extends and attaches to the plant’s main branch). I turned the damaged leaves over and examined them without finding aphids or another kind of culprit.

Yesterday, on passing my sunflower, clearly the damaged had increased, and this time I saw that (same?) black ant parked on a leaf. As I watched, the ant took off. It traveled quickly across the leaf and over to the main branch, before pausing. Long enough for me to grab a photo. Here’s the thing, folks, I’ll swear that ant recognized me eyeing it and had been hurrying to escape.

My phone has a critter-identifying app, but it’s not very accurate and it didn’t recognize the black ant. I did some research, revealing that ants on sunflowers are common, and among the big variety of predators are imported fire ants. But this guy doesn’t have a fire ant’s reddish features. My ant is more similar to this pictured variety.

Ants on sunflower leaf (stock photo)

Now that I understand what’s been attacking my plant’s leafs, the questions are, why only one black ant? Am I simply not seeing others? Could one ant alone create so much visible leaf destruction? Did my lone ant happen to fall from the sky?

This will become an exploration for the truth. My next steps are to eliminate this intruder, record the currently damaged leafs, and be on the lookout for more ants and damages. Meanwhile, I’ll find a more useful critter identifier app and conduct more research on the internet.

And, about believing that the ant was watching me watching it. They’re really smart creatures and worthy of great appreciation and some respect, as long as they keep to their knitting without becoming unpleasantly intrusive.

Dear Friends, I hoped a hummingbird might pick off that ant, but no dice. Diana

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