Ants Are Spring Cleaning

The other day I was out for a walk. There, on the side of the road, next to a small pile of snow (indicating old man winter has once again overstayed his welcome) was a large anthill.

The ants were busy. Spring cleaning?

They were displaying a scurry of activity on the outside of a large mound. They were black and red; I remembered them from my childhood. My brother had an ant farm in his bedroom (what was my mother thinking!) and he found some of the “mound” ants outside to add to the colony. Suffice it to say things didn’t go very well.

The anthill I came across was a round mound, maybe a foot tall. It was sandy and covered in grass around the bottom half. I’m guessing the top was sand as well, but it was covered in dried pine needles. I was tempted to scratch away some of the needles to see if it was sand underneath but did not want to disturb my little friends.


I spent time watching the ants. Sometimes I would stare in one spot and marvel at the movement I could see throughout the scope of my vision. They moved with purpose.

It was sunny and nearly 50° F outside. As I watch them the sun was sinking toward the tops of the trees on the horizon; the air was beginning to cool, which seemed to cause the bugs to slow a little. Many of the ants were moving pieces of dead grass or pine needles. I watched one move a piece of dried grass about six times its size.

Then, I saw one and carrying another ant. I think it was dead. Perhaps to some sort of funeral ceremony?

I continued to watch the ants carry dried pine needles from place to place. I wondered what they were doing. It seemed they were simply rearranging the needles. I watched one carry a piece to a location that seemed like all the other locations and simply drop it. It was as if they were doing a roofing project but there weren’t any neat rows of shingles. Instead, there were pieces of pine needles placed in various directions. There had to be thousands of them.

The top of the mound was a crater. I saw a few holes inside. There were multiple ants moving in and out of each hole. More than one entrance or exit, it seemed. I wondered what the mound looked like on the inside.

I spotted an ant that seemed to be carrying a tiny little fly. No bigger than a fruit fly. The ant carried the victim up the mound. Then, another ant came, taking the fly into its own mouth. There was a tug-of-war for a little while until the second ant won the battle. It carried the fly away.

Was it food? Was it an offering for the queen?

As I watch the ants, I thought of some words to describe them. Persistent. Strong. Resourceful. Diligent. Busy. Obviously, I was impressed.

There are more than 100 species of ants in Minnesota. The worldwide ant population is in the quadrillions, according to scientific estimates.

That is a lot of ants!

As I walked away from the anthill I glanced back. I was too far away to see individual ants anymore, but I still saw movement all over the mound as if the earth was alive and moving. And so it was. Alive with ants that were busy moving pine needles.

Spring cleanup.

Spring roofing project.

Incredibly amazing ants.