Growing up in West Texas and Eastern New Mexico, mowing the grass was something that you could do every couple of weeks or so. The common ants were called “fire ants” and built huge underground nests that killed all the grass and plants in a 5 foot radius. The ants were large, slow moving, but with a firey bite. As kids, we were fascinated by them, but knew to stay away from them for the most part. Unless they took over your yard, they were easily ignored.
These have new meaning in PNG.
St. Fidelis, as you can tell from the photos I posted here, has large areas of green space. All of which need constant mowing. The school has at least 5 push mowers and a large tractor being used daily and yet we never seem to catch up. A good rain and the grass can jump up an inch over night. Waiting to mow is not an option and the grass is of a tough dense variety that seems to fight the mower at every step. Still, it’s good exercise and I expect I’ll be leaner for it.
Meet my new nemeses.
I haven’t had to give much thought to ants lately. The ants in Tulsa are pretty innocuous, at least around my house. A curiosity usually, but will give you an itchy bite if you happen to sit too near their nest.
Here in PNG, I’ve already encountered at least three different type of ants, some very tiny but extremely fast when they find something sweet to eat, like the sugar bowl. The ones that swarmed ours the other day made it look like a miniature freeway.
The ones pictured above are something else completely. I gather that they live above ground, inhabiting just about every tree and shrub in the area. If they can find a leaf that they can roll cone-shaped, they set up house with great fruitfulness.
They are ferocious little beasts! Perhaps because they live above ground, they are quick to defend their domain. I first encountered them while mowing beneath a palm tree. When I got too close to one of the lower branches, the ants would leap off the branches, onto my head, neck, arms and feet. They’ve got a good little bite too, very noticeable with one, quite annoying if there are more.
Yesterday, Br. Jim (I’ll write about him another time) was attempting to trim an overgrown bush filled with these ants. Every time he came close, the ants would swam over his hands and up his arm, forcing him to retreat or take a licking in the attempt.
I’m constantly on the lookout for them now as I move about the school. I’m sure that they will be a constant part of living here and you’ll no doubt hear more about them in the future.
We may have found a chink in their armor though. Br. Jim learned from one of the PNG nationals that the ants aren’t as ferocious in the cool of the morning or during a rain. He tested this theory by trimming the same bush mentioned above during yesterday’s deluge and found the ants much more subdued. Victory may be ours!