Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Battle Is On

The Battle Is On

Those who’ve read my column for years know I love hummingbirds. Those miniature bodies with needle-like beaks that zip through air emitting the spirited hum of an old-fashioned Singer sewing machine mesmerize me. Usually, I hear before I see their torpedo-shaped torsos flitting by at supersonic speeds. I love watching them dart to and from their feeders or from blossoms dangling over the edges of hanging baskets. What’s not to love, right?

The answer is ants! If you attract hummers, these insects soon follow. Since they are social by nature, they arrive in droves. You never get one or two. An endless parade of narrow- waisted, strong-jawed pheromone -using communicator s from every colony in the vicinity troops up tree, wall, pole, or whatever supports that bright bottle of sugar solution.

Usually, birds and bugs co-exist, eating sweet syrup daintily like red hat ladies enjoying a tea party. However, the other day, an iridescent broadtail swooped to the red plastic blossom inviting it to dinner. Upon arriving, it swiftly backed off and hovered before racing away.

I watched, thinking it would return. When it didn’t, I inspected the feeder hanging from a shepherd’s hook. I soon realized why my little buddy’s appetite vanished.

Miniscule ants by the thousands had marched up that pole and found their way into the mixture. Like desperate drunks, they drowned their sorrows and themselves before floating to the top of the bottle. Still-living relatives escaped out yellow and red flower-shaped feeding stations. That little hummer must have thought the Invasion of the Body Snatchers had arrived.

If that green fellow had lingered longer, he’d have reported to his friends that an awkwardly acrobatic older woman was doing a hootchie-cootchie dance. I couldn’t find a finger hold on that feeder that wasn’t covered two or three layers deep in ants. Every time I touched glass, plastic, or metal, eight-legged Huns raced up my hand onto my arm.

This emergency called for desperate action. A scum of dead creatures requiring disposal drifted at the top of the bottle, so I went for the big gun: a water hose with power sprayer. Taking enough time enough to douse myself from head to toe and muddy the soil beneath my feet, I drove the invaders from their castle. At last, I could antlessly lift feeder from hook.

Hundreds of carcasses washed down the drain as I cleaned the bottle before refilling it. I had to think of a way to discourage the families of these dead creatures from repeating the behavior that destroyed their companions. Thankfully, Necessity is the Mother of Invention.

I scrounged until found a lid built something like an angel food cake pan. I filled the top with water to discourage future sugar-crazed kamikazes from polluting my hummers’ carb supply.

So far so good--the sugar solution remains bugless. However, I worry that the natives swarming about my feet as I refresh the bottle are plotting to overthrow the crazily gyrating gramma who thwarted their feast.

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