Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Poem for Wednesday and Ant Colony

By Rae Armantrout

The old

is newly cloaked
in purpose.

There’s a jumble
of hair and teeth

under the bedclothes
in the forest.

"The better to eat you with,"
it says,

and nibbles us
until we laugh.


An axeman
comes to help.


"To, to,"
birds cheep

to greet
whatever has come up.

"To, to"


A poem by this year's Pulitzer Prize-winning poet from this week's New Yorker.

On Tuesday, Adam got to have the miniature golf outing that got interrupted by rain on Monday -- and to visit the pool and waterslides at Bohrer Park -- so he had a good afternoon, followed by an excellent evening since my parents gave him his birthday present early...a Samsung HMX-20C camcorder, which he has been learning to use all evening. Daniel did not have such an enjoyable afternoon since I dragged him shopping with me and to pick up a freecycle penguin needlepoint kit, but he had plans in the evening to meet with Chris about their summer engineering project and his Gmail status earlier had said that his research mentor was awesome, so I assume that means he was looking forward to it.

All I did worth remembering was to buy two new sports bras on sale at Kohl's, plus a replacement pair of $6 flip-flops since one of mine went missing somewhere between North Carolina and home, and a very silly anniversary present for Paul (it'll be 20 years on Thursday). I need to come up with a slightly-less-silly gift by then but it won't be tomorrow morning since I have to go have bloodwork done, bleh. At least I now have definitive plans to see Eclipse on Thursday with my friends, probably accompanied by Adam and one of his friends, though they don't want to sit with us! Here are some photos of the wonderful above-ground ant hill at the Durham Museum of Life & Science:

I know that's a lousy photo but I also know some people get upset when I post bugs up close. This is the museum's colony of leaf-cutter ants, housed not with the other insects in the butterfly house, but in the main building.

The ants carry pieces of leaves into chambers where the leaves are then shredded to grow a specific kind of fungus.

The ants both feed off of and live in chambers in the fungus where the queen lays her eggs.

Though there are males and a queen in the colony, like bees, these ants are all workers. The small ones collect the leaves, the medium ones build the fungus and take care of the larvae, and the big ones are soldiers who defend the fungus.

It takes a lot of work to move the leaves, which must be mixed with the ant saliva to grow the fungus, which only exists in these ant colonies.

Each species of fungus is specific to a particular species of leaf-cutter ant.

There is lots of activity even in the tubes where no leaves are being carried.

The queen, who lives in the fungus, is nearly an inch long and may live for eighteen years -- the queen at this museum hatched in 1999.

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