Ants, Bees, Insanity, and New Paint

You just never know what you are going to see around here! I went out this morning to take a photos of the tree where the toucans have been visiting, and I noticed a large column of ants marching across the driveway. We have ants of all kinds here, and the closest I could guess was leaf cutter ants. None of them had the big cutting jaws though, they weren’t carrying anything, and they were all going in the same direction rather than coming and going, and there were a lot of them.

So, I follow them and saw that they were headed for the house, and up the side of the house towards the attic.

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The ants head up the side of the house by the front door

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The numbers were increasing by the minute

Oh dear! I have heard about ants that invade the house, eat every crumb and scrap they can find, and then leave. I was told to just go out for an hour or two and when I return the house will be clean. Was I about to experience this? OK, maybe it will be interesting.

Then, I notice they were headed for the BEES 😦

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There has been a beehive above the front door as long as I have lived here. The neighbors warn me that they are very bad and will bite very hard, but these are very mellow and have never caused a bit of trouble. As a former beekeeper, I figured this beehive meant that this is the right house for me! But, this was not to be a good day for the bees. We thought about spraying the ants or trying to do something, but by now they were totally overrunning the beehive. We didn’t see much chance of success so we decided to let nature take it course.

Meanwhile, the army of ants continued to increase by the minute.

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By now, we could see the ants taking bee larvae out of the hive and carrying them off.

By now, we could see the ants taking bee larvae out of the hive and carrying them off.

The number of ants was extremely impressive!

The number of ants was extremely impressive!

The ants were going around this bush, then around that bush in the distance, over the wall behind it, and into the woods behind the house in the opposite direction from which they had come.

The ants were going around this bush, then around that large bush in the distance, over the wall behind it, and into the woods behind the house in the opposite direction from which they had come.

Ants going over the wall. The ants with the big white heads looked strange, and I didn't remember seeing them among the ants on the house (though later I spotted a few in the photos)

Ants going over the wall. The ants with the big white heads looked strange, and I didn’t remember seeing them among the ants on the house (though later I spotted a few in the photos)

It was an amazing attack!! I noticed them when they were first arriving and only a few ants were going up the side of the house. It wasn’t long though before there were incredible numbers of ants participating in the raid! The bees didn’t have a chance.

We went out on our bike ride, and when we returned maybe 45 minutes later there was much less activity going on, though there were still large numbers of ants going to and from the hive. I came out to check maybe ten minutes later, and it was all over. There wasn’t an ant anywhere to be seen!! The whole thing lasted maybe 1 1/4 – 1 1/2 hours in all.

I had been wanting to paint the front of the house since I arrived. The paint was old and worn, and some new paint would really freshen up the place. But, I wasn’t about to kill the bees and I didn’t think it was wise to paint with the hive right there. Well…. if the ants were gone… and the bees were gone… and I had paint on hand (from painting the patio the other day)…. lets DO IT! I enlisted Joel’s help and we went to work.

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There were still a few bees flying around but they were so traumatized that they weren’t any threat. They weren’t even landing on the hive or paying any attention to me so I had no trouble painting. It looks so much better! I will paint the rest one of these days soon, but this was the section that worried me with the bees right there. Our timing was excellent because by the time we were finished more and more bees were flying around, though they still weren’t landing on the hive or being the least bit aggressive towards us.

And then, GOOD NEWS! Joel noticed a lot of bees flying around the bush right in front of the house and went to investigate. There, in that bush, was a swarm of bees.

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I hope that these are my bees. Maybe when they saw the attack beginning they got out with the queen, and now they will be able to rebuild their colony. They don’t seem to be coming back to this hive, but maybe they can find another good place to live. There’s also another small colony of these bees that just begun in that same bush, so I am not without bees. Perhaps at some point, the hive above the door will look good to another colony of bees and they will move in. Please though, don’t tell the ants!

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About Kris Cunningham

We live in David, Chiriqui Provence, Republic of Panama! This blog is about some of our experiences in our new country.
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15 Responses to Ants, Bees, Insanity, and New Paint

  1. Allison says:

    I don’t even know what to say about all of this! I don’t know if I could have watched the ants (but they were outside and that’s a good thing), and then to have that beehive there. You are very brave (you were a former beekeeper so you must be and a nurse that used to draw blood lol). Hope tomorrow brings you more adventures!

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    • Yes that was a pretty crazy thing to watch but what can you do? I’m no match for an army of ants.
      The bees are very good bees, much better behaved than the honey bees I used to have. They never paid a bit of attention to us but just went about their own business.
      A nurse that draws blood?? No, nope, no way, wrong nurse, hate needles, no no no, yuck, no needles!
      Who knows what tomorrow will bring! 😀

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  2. indacampo says:

    Wow, impressive. From here they look fairly large. There’s another one to research for you! 🙂

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    • I looked up army ants on Kathy’s suggestion, and this certainly looks like what came through here. And, this was probably a fairly small colony according to things i read. They can form columns 20 meters wide and kill everything in their path! They really are interesting things. I read that they go in cycles of foraging, then forming a nest with their bodies to protect the queen who can lay thousands and thousands of eggs. When the eggs hatch and there is a need for more food, they go off and forage again. They don’t make nests, but are rather always on the move. This would explain why they came from one direction and left in another. It’s always something new and interesting around here!

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  3. Are you planning on starting up beekeeping in David? I would think that would be great for you to do. I miss your pepper plant honey, I used the last of mine on some chicken adding just a bit of chipotle and onion, yum.
    I love reading your journals 🙂
    Kim

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    • Nope, no bees. No bees, no dogs, no goldfish, nothing that needs tending! We’re in play mode now. I think I connected Linda with the guy who has my bees now, so ask her and she might be able to get some and send it to you. If not, email me, or look up Suncoast Beekeepers on line. That’s the area beekeepers club and they certainly could connect you with someone who has honey. This is the time to do it because the pepper plants should have just bloomed!

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  4. Kathy says:

    Definitely sounds like you had army ants. We are evidently on the path of a group, as well. I am told that they will follow the same route for several years. We have them 2 or 3 times a year and they have never entered the house. They just so around it towards the Rio Cano and then back the exact way they came. We have families of geckos living in our home and I always fear that the ants will come in some day and wipe them out. So far the ants don’t seem interested at all. Good thing because they do bite!.

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    • I looked up army ants and you are right. I can see how they got their name because it certainly looked like an invading army! I’ve never seen them before though in the year we have been here. We have a lot of geckos in the house too, and they certainly would have been killed of the ants went after them. I like the geckos too so I’m glad they are OK. Thanks for the info! It’s been very interesting reading about these ants.

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  5. oldsalt1942 says:

    Painting just the front of the house is a Panamanian tradition. When you get outside of the developments like the one you live in and out into the campo you see a lot of houses that only paint the part of the house that faces the street. The left will be the raw, unpainted block construction. Paint is expensive here and a large percentage of the homeowners simply can’t afford to paint the entire house.

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    • Yep, we’ve seen that a lot too! It will probably happen here also. I will buy another gallon and finish the front of the house, and the side next to the carport if we have enough paint, but the rest of it is going to stay as is. No one sees the back and the side towards the woods anyway, and the color is close enough that it will all blend in – actually look better than the three shades of yellow and peach that were on various sections of the house before.

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  6. Capt Dan says:

    Once an apiarist, always an apiarist. Or at least that’s what the folks in Sarasota say.

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    • Maybe. I will always have the knowledge and understanding I gained from keeping bees. It takes a fair amount of equipment though, and time to keep an eye on them and get the honey so I don’t think I’ll be doing that here. There are other beekeepers in the area though, and even the local honey in the supermarket is very good.

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  7. Pingback: The Army Ants Return | The Panama Adventure

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