Friday, April 3, 2009

Save the Ants!

Howard Leland, listening to All Things Considered last Wednesday, was appalled at what he heard. It was, in part, an account of how a respected scholar displayed blatant disregard for the safety of an ant.

Back in the fifties, I gather, a researcher named E. O. Wilson swabbed an innocent ant with oleic acid. That didn't hurt the ant directly. However, since oleic acid is what dead ants give off after a couple of days, other ants in the colony reacted to the very much living ant as though it were a little formican corpse.

For two hours, the swabbed ant endured the indignity, Mr. Leland explained to me, of being picked up, carried to the colony's 'graveyard' pile, and dumped there.

Howard Leland was never one to ignore a vital issue. In 2005, he was among the first in Loonfoot Falls to make his back yard a butterfly preserve. More recently, his stand against noise pollution led to a neighborhood discussion of noise: and a resolution to the leaf blower issue.

This week, Howard Leland has a new cause. He is determined to save the ants from uncaring researchers. He tells me that his letter to the Asclepias Society has not yet been answered.

"It's a long shot, anyway," Mr. Leland said, "the society's charter specifically limits its interests to monarch butterflies: but I felt I had to ask."

If you live in Loonfoot Falls, Howard Leland will probably ask you to join his cause. Just letting you know.

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