A monarch butterfly fluttered through our backyard today. It reminded me of the great Monarch Rescue of 2015. Our butterfly garden is in full swing, so we hope to see more monarchs this summer.
Today, we nearly wiped out an ant colony by accident. What appeared to be leftover soil from an earlier spill of a potted plant turned out to be a massive swarm of ants.
Once we realized that the black splotch on the sidewalk was actually moving, we stepped aside and got down on our knees for a closer look.
What’s With the Swarm of Ants?
You’ve probably come across a massive swarm of ants on a sidewalk at some point this summer. Perhaps a melted popsicle or a piece of candy was to blame. But sometimes there are no food remnants around; just thousands of ants clustered around a crack in the pavement.
Like us, you probably wondered what all those ants are doing out and about at the same time.
I did a little research and found that it’s not uncommon to see a swarm of ants on a crack in the sidewalk in the dead of summer. There are a few possible explanations for what draws out an entire colony of ants all at once.
Pavement ants live in colonies under sidewalks and other paved areas. Like all living things, pavement ants need food and shelter.
When they outgrow their space and their food supply starts to dwindle, it’s time to find a new home. Larger ant colonies split off into two colonies, each with their own queen.
We noticed a trail of ants moving away from the swarm, about ten feet down the sidewalk, where they went back underground. My hunch is that they found a new place to set up headquarters.
Another explanation is a bit more dramatic. Look closely. Do the ants appear to be in battle mode? If they do, you may be witnessing a turf war.
Sometimes, two colonies, both expanding over time, begin to overlap with one another. When this happens, it’s time for one of the colonies to move on. Neither colony wants to move, so a battle ensues. The winning colony gets to stay put while the losing colony, or what’s left of it, moves to a new location.
It was both startling and fascinating to see such a massive collective of ants above ground. When we came back an hour later they were completely gone! Now, if only I could hire them to move some furniture.
We’re smack-dab in the middle of summer. In most of the U.S., it’s hot, it’s humid, and let’s face it, we’re all starting to run out of things to do with the kids. Lucky for you, I put together a list of activities to keep the kids busy (i.e., help you get through the rest of the summer without losing your sanity).
August 2016 Nature Activity Calendar
1st – Gotta catch ’em all! – Catch some lightening bugs (Remember: catch and release), then check out Julie Brinckloe’s fantastic book, Fireflies.
3rd – National Watermelon Day: Download free coloring books, activities, and recipes @ watermelon.org/Kids
5th – Scavenger Hunt – How many types of purple flowers can you find on your block? Take a look at what we found on our last hunt for yellow flowers @ urbankidsinnature.com/home/2016/07/15/outdoor-scavenger-hunt-in-search-of-yellow
7th – National Friendship Day: Learn how to make a friendship band @ friendshipday.org/celebrate-friendship-day-2016.html
9th – National Book Lovers’ Day: Check out 16 great children’s books about nature and the environment @ childrensbooksguide.com/nature
10th – Get cooking! – Actually, it’s hot, so maybe a salad is a better idea. Check out the Caprese salad we made last year with homegrown tomatoes @ urbankidsinnature.com/home/2015/08/31/you-say-tomato-i-say-yum
12th – Do you hear what I hear? – Are the cicadas out in your neck of the woods? Learn more about cicadas @ urbankidsinnature.com/home/2015/08/22/mother-natures-chorus-cicadas-in-the-city
16th – National Tell a Joke Day: When is a baseball player like spider? Get the answer to that and more insect and bug jokes @ funology.com/bug-and-insectjokes
21st – National Senior Citizens Day: Paint, draw or color a bouquet of flowers for a senior citizen in your life.
23rd – Birdwatch: What kinds of birds are living in your neighborhood? Don’t forget to take some pics so you can identify, study, paint, or draw them later. Check out this simple bird identifier @ animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/birding/backyard-bird-identifier
26th – National Dog Day: Find 20 ways to celebrate @ NationalDogDay.com
30th – Nature photo shoot – Take a walk around your neighborhood and see that you can find. Send me a photo or two at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll post them on this blog.