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Ants and Aphids

Here in Hightown we have always been plagued with ants each summer. The good thing is that they have realised that they are not welcome in the house and for the last few years they have stayed outside.

I recently saw a video of a man pouring molten metal down an old ant nest in his garden. From the surface it looked like a small hole and I was amazed at how much metal was being poured in. It was then left to cool and solidify before the whole thing was dug up. It was huge. Very carefully he cleared the soil off the now solid metal, gave it a polish and stood it up as a unique ornament.

I wasn’t interested in the aesthetic side of it but rather in the size and intricacy of the nest. For such tiny creatures they had created a home with many chambers and multiple pathways yet a single opening.

I went in to our garden and poked a stick down one of the many ant nests we have. The stick wasn’t long enough and I had to get a plant support to reach the end of that passageway. It was around 13 inches deep. The ants didn’t like me poking around and so I left them to it.

But, I found myself asking “What use are ants? What are they for?” I don’t like them but am now impressed by the nests they build.

A little later I was about to use the hose pipe to remove aphids from a couple of roses and a small tree. As I approached I noticed that ants were running up and down the stems of the roses. Looking more closely I saw that the ants were picking off an aphid and taking it away, presumably to feed the nest.

I remembered the words of Chris Packham, naturalist, “Nothing is wasted in nature.”

The following day Colin cut the grass and called me out to see that ants had built nests below the lawn and as he had taken the mower over the entrances the ants were swarming out. It didn’t take long for the blackbirds to spot an opportunity and two spent quite a while picking them off and enjoying a feast.

I started to wonder if the humble little ant got a mention in the Bible and it does.

Proverbs 6:6 says “Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones. Learn from their ways and become wise.”

Later in Proverbs we read “Ants are creatures of little strength, yet they store up their food in the summer.” Proverbs 30:25

I discovered that ants are a lot like us. They live in communities where there is division of labour, they have different generations within the same colony, and they share the rearing of their young; they are able to communicate with one another and pass knowledge down from one generation to another. They live in true communities where everyone has a role to play and they get on with it.

I don’t think they will question each other or compare what they are doing with the work of another group and a lot of their work goes on unseen below ground. Very cleverly ants collect enough food in the summer to see the colony through the colder months. An ant may only live 45 to 60 days, which means the ants that are gathering food during summer may not live to see winter. But they still work hard so that others, that are alive during winter, will have food.

Ants are selfless creatures that work relentlessly for the well being of their community.

The ants in my garden seem to be always busy, rushing from one place to the next. We humans need times of rest, times of stillness to think, to plan, to listen and, best of all, to talk and listen to our Father who loves and cares for us.

I’m still not a fan of ants but they eat the aphids I don’t want on my plants and they feed the birds that I do want in the garden, moreover, God loves them as part of His creation and He gave them a role to play.

Can we learn from the humble, tiny ant?

Jane

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