Hermione Ant and Hattie Ant Love Roses
Hermione and Hattie were leaf cutter ants. They lived in the forest in Nicaragua with their very large family and with their mother, the queen. The little nurse ants took care of them when they were babies, fed them delicious fungus and bathed them and tucked them in at night. They grew bigger and bigger. One day, the queen called for them, along with some of their sisters who were the same age.
“Welcome, my little ones,” she said. The smell of her voice filled Hermione and Hattie with joy. “You are now old enough to join our colony as workers. Those of you who are here now, you who are big and strong and shiny, your job will be to cut and gather leaves to feed our fungus. This is vital work, for if the fungus don’t eat, we don’t eat. Listen to your captain, stay with your group and work hard. Now, my loves, off you go.”
Hermione and Hattie were glad that they were in the same group and proud to be old enough to help. Off they marched with two hundred or so other ants following Sergeant Heloise.
“Our scouts sighted a rosebush. The fungi love roses. Follow me, ladies, and don’t dawdle,” barked Heloise.
Hermione and Hattie marched along happily in the warm, humid air. It was a sunny day, but they walked in the shade. The world smelled different than it did inside their home. It smelled green and delicious. Hermione and Hattie were so busy looking around and giggling with each other that they ran into the ants in front of them when they stopped marching.
“So sorry,” they said. The ants in front harrumphed and said something about new recruits.
But then everyone became quiet so they could smell what Sergeant Heloise was saying. “Ants in front, climb into the target bush and start cutting leaves. Drop them to the ground, The rest of you ladies catch the leaves they drop and carry them back to the hive. Understood?”
“Yes, ma’am,” the ants replied in unison.
Hermione and Harriet were in the front, so they climbed the rosebush. The roses were deep red and many were in full bloom. Hermione and Harriet climbed into one of the roses. they could feel their comrades working all around them. They felt the pieces of green leaves drop to the ground and be carried away, while they wandered through the rose. The smell was heavenly. Up and down they went, over petals, up toward the sun and then back to the cool center. They sipped a dewdrop. The water tasted just like the rose smelled. They enjoyed themselves so much that they didn’t smell when Sergeant Heloise said it was time to go home. They didn’t notice that the smells of ants working and talking were gone.
When they noticed the silence, Hermione and Harriet peered over the edge of the rose. There were no ants in sight. There were a few cut leaves littering the ground, and quite a few less leaves on the rosebush, but no other sign of Sergeant Heloise and the rest. Hermione and Harriet ran around the edge of the rose, calling for help until they bumped into each other on the other side. They really wanted to go home, but they didn’t know where it was. They sat side by side on the flower and cried.
In a few minutes, a big blue bird came along. “What’s the matter girls,” she asked. The ants didn’t answer. “Out here all alone? Tsk, tsk. Why don’t you come back to my nest? It’s nice and cozy there.”
But Harriet said, “Run Hermione, run inside. She wants to eat us for dinner.” And both ants ran quickly to the center of the flower. After what seemed like a long time, the blue bird flew away.
Harriet and Hermione cautiously peered over the edge of the rose. The bird was gone and the sun was beginning to set.
“Why don’t you come down here, little ones?” a soft voice said. In the last of the sunlight, the girls saw something sparkling. “Come here,” the voice said. “I will take care of you. You must be frightened all alone.”
They were. They crawled over the side of the flower, to see who was there. Beneath them, in the branches of the bush, was a big green spider. Hermione and Harriet didn’t say a word, but hurried back into their rose. “Your loss,” they heard the spider whisper.
The sun set and the moon rose and the sky was filled with stars. The girls looked with both amazement and fear. They felt a sound and a dark shadow came close to them.
“Oh, dear, little ones,” said the bat, for that’s who they felt, “so far from home and all alone. Climb onto my back and I will give you a ride home.”
“No thank you,” said Hermione as she and Harriet snuggled down as far as they could into the center of their flower. The bat flew away. The flower rocked in the slight breeze and soothed them to sleep.
They woke the next morning to the scent of ants on the march. They smelled Sergeant Heloise’s voice urging on the troop of ants. They peered over the edge of the flower.
Hurrah! They were saved. They hurried down the rosebush, avoiding the spider’s web. They slipped in among their sisters and marched on to the next spot for harvesting. This time, they stayed on the ground and went back to their colony with the first group. After delivering their load, they headed for the dining room and helped themselves to some delicious fungus before returning to work. And although they still liked the flowers, they never again forgot to stay with their group.
I may or may not have mentioned my fascination with the leaf cutter ants that live in Nicaragua (and throughout Central and South America and some southern parts of the US) . I’ve watched them a lot. Here is a photo of the ants at work (better than my photos, for sure) Leaf cutter ants–this website also has interesting photos, videos and facts about these ants
As I researched these ants, I discovered that they are considered agricultural pests, but I only saw them in the wild (and by my room on Isla de Ometepe). They use the leaves to feed fungus which they care for in their colonies and the fungus in turn provide them with food. Interestingly, they have developed antibiotics that they carry on their bodies to keep the fungus healthy–they figured this out a long time before we humans did.
Carlos, the owner of Hotel El Encanto on Isla de Ometepe has a wonderful garden, but he told me that he can’t grow roses because the leaf cutter ants devour them. I had been thinking about writing a story about the ants–not sure why I’m suddenly fascinated by these little critters–but that gave me the inspiration for this story.
Anyhow, here are a couple of pics from Ometepe and then I’m off to lunch–in Granada, Nicaragua–life is good!
Ok–that’s all for now. Thanks for stopping by.