The ants go marching one by one? No way!

“The ants go marching one by one? No way! Hundreds by hundreds!!

Submitted by Art and Barb Straub

A stranger came limping down our alley in LeSueur on Friday, May 17th; bruised, battered, faded, and moving fast, not taking the time to say “Hello.” The female Monarch butterfly was welcome, yet the brilliant tulips, geraniums and puffy lavender allium did not attract it. Milkweed plants, eight inches tall and beckoning in the wind, didn’t provide a landing strip for this quickly moving insect. Next day, at the intersection of Highway #19 and East Henderson Station Road, another more brilliantly mottled male was sighted…again near milkweed plants. Perchance should you spot the treasured insect before June 1st, you might phone 507.665.2658.

The realization of the absolute importance of insects in our lives grows, be that …. good or bad. One reads of the cicada invasion in eastern U.S., especially South Carolina, or the crickets devouring vegetation in the west, munching on green foliage and crops mile upon mile and causing auto accidents as the insects accumulate on slippery roadways.

Then, of course, we have the Minnesota State Insect, mosquitos plus gnats, whose fiendish frolics caused misery two years ago; their activities were squelched briefly by the drought of 2023, but they are surely back in the saddle again this spring, along with their buddies the ticks. (Count the bumps on our arms.)

As we wrote this article, a visitor came to the door to announce two monarch butterflies in our garden, bringing cheer to our hearts as we listened to the interesting storm forecasts for the evening of May 20th. A number of our readers have participated in the Great Milkweed Pod collection the past few autumns. Under the leadership of the Monarch Joint Venture, tons of pods have been shipped to Wisconsin where seeds are gathered and distributed free to interested environmentalists around the nation. MJV is a group made up of many organizations working to save the monarch, and they have some great news! “We’ve acquired the 20-acre property in BELLE PLAINE that was formerly the Prairie Oaks Institute, and it will become our NEW WORLD HEADQUARTERS! There will be a COMMUNITY OUTREACH event on JUNE 22nd, 2024, Butterfly Days. This welcome announcement coming through Wendy Caldwell from Monarch Joint Venture. More news to come regarding this exciting event in this newspaper soon!

With all the somber unsettling news recently, and not so recently, a bird of our childhood appeared during the past weekend. As a ten-year-old, while passing our pasture grasses and clovers on the farm, a black bird would appear, then sing joyfully over the field as it dropped down, wings aflutter…a bird of great joy passing the same off to human listeners. Since that time, we’ve come upon a few, but often their appearance and song would disappear. These 90 percent black birds with a white to yellow back and topknot, have chosen long grass for their nest placement. As meadows and grasslands have disappeared for more economical crops, so have the birds. Also, about the time for the youngsters to fledge, ‘hay’ is ready to forage, and so go the birds, unable to cope with sickle and blade. We’re speaking of the beautiful musical Bobolink, among long-distance migrating aviators. Winter homes include the grasslands of Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, and Bolivia. Often they are termed ‘rice birds,’ as they destroy that crop as food during their long autumn travels through southern states. As their numbers are declining significantly, we enjoy them while they remain with us. Today, May 20th, they were singing their
little hearts out near the meadows along Pumpkin Hill Road.

In China, this year, 2024, is called the “Year of the Dragon.”
We’ve named this year the “Year of the Ant.” Regular Indy readers will recall our finding giant Carpenter Ants in our home during the most frigid days of winter, emerging from ??? According to Google, there are 100 species of ants in Minnesota, and 12,000 species in the world. We won’t try to identify them all! Where they most affect us currently is inside our trail cameras! Yes, you’ll open the camera, and you’ll soon have ‘ants on your pants,’ wee biting little buggers. We place mosquito dope in and around the camera, the numbers decrease. Bring a mal-functioning camera home, place it on a counter, now you have ants in the pantry as well. What brought this to our attention was a bare soil spot on our prairie,
But the ‘bare’ spot was a 4 x 4 soil area COVERED by ants. Thousands of ants! We didn’t stop to call each by name, or count them individually, perhaps next week. Happy bird melody.