Monday, June 07, 2010

The graveyard of the ants.

I will never know why there were squares cut into one of the compound walls of my childhood home in Lucknow. The squares were small and ran along the length of the wall, right in the middle. Perhaps they were meant for lamps. One day I discovered ants in one of the squares, hundreds of them and they were all dead. As I watched, I saw a procession of ants bring a dead one into the square. It was carried across the other dead ones and left in a corner and then the others went away. I had found an ant graveyard!.

From that day on, I would go there everyday to observe and check if I had indeed found an ant graveyard. On most days it lay there silent. The dead lying there naked, exposed, vulnerable. What if the gardener decided to clean up the squares? All of them were becoming collection points for dead leaves and mud and would soon become too obvious even for him to ignore. What if he decided to clean everything up? Where would the ants put their dead? I kept a vigil from that day on. I made myself the protector of the ants and their graveyard.

I even kept flowers there. Purple bougainvilleas, tiny wildflowers whose names I did not know and covered their bodies with leaves. At least twice more, as far as I can remember, I saw a procession of ants carrying a dead one and depositing it in the graveyard.

Ant graveyards do exist. Most of what I have found is anecdotal evidence. Ants graveyards in kitchens, in the bathroom of a hilltop home, in some shed and other such places. The people who have discovered them have been as surprised and fascinated as me. I would love to have a scientific explanation for ant graveyards but I have not been able to get much.

1 comment:

Sylvia Kay said...

I am fascinated that someone else has seen this. I didn't find an ant graveyard, but I had an ant deposit a dead ant at my feet after ceremoniously carrying its burden several times in a circle around me. I took it as a sign that the friend I was expecting wouldn't arrive and she didn't...