Sunday, 15 February 2009
Recent hot weather sent garden ants scurrying indoors. Workers from the colony near the back door had kept their distance for months but when the temperature exceeded 40C, they rethought their strategy.
Although the kitchen sink offers many morsels, the choicest pickings are in the laundry. That's where I keep a small collection of native figs. One of the plants — a Port Jackson fig (Ficus rubiginosa) — is infested with soft brown scale (Coccus hesperidum). So well are the scale insects doing that they have already produced several generations. The tiny mobile nymphs are distributed over the stems and leaves, trying to find unoccupied spaces to settle.
While the scale insects feed on plant sap, the ants are crazy for the honeydew exuded from the scales' rear ends. Despite the large number of photographs I've taken, I do not have a soft spot for either the scale insects or the ants. They'll soon be relocated, possibly with extreme prejudice. Until then, I will marvel at the ants' industry, the scale insects' sloth and the exquisite morphology of both species. (Without having any deep fondness for them, you understand.)