Saturday, December 26, 2015

My Green Ants, and Dragon Fruit - an interesting observation.

The fruiting season, November to March had just started again, and at the time of writing this I had four Dragon Fruit buds the size of a walnut on my plant. Three of them are high up and the fourth is 1.5 metres down and just 50 cm off the ground. (But at the time of publishing this, I counted over 40 flower buds of all sizes on my plants)

The top three buds were covered with Green Ants,
but there was little movement - they are just sitting there, and you see their “antennas” moving and some make a brushing motion with their front legs. I’m wondering what they are actually there for, but I noticed that the buds are exuding some nectar or some other sweet stuff. So that would be a good reason why they are there. Maybe, they are also there to guard or protect them from insects dangerous to the bud - I will probably never know. Occasionally some run away and others come to replace them. They are there day and night; I often go out with the torch and watch them before going to bed. They are fascinating little creatures.
The interesting thing is, the bud number 4 at the bottom was “Antless”I just invented this word. So, I put my thinking cap on, wondering all day why there were no ants. Haven’t the scouts discovered this bud yet? Or, was it too far away from the other three perhaps?
Well, I decided to help them to discover this “lonely’ bud at the bottom. This was the least I could do for my green little biting friends. After all, I thought, I published a story about them in a glossy German magazine for which I got $300.00, so I owed something to them.
I took a little brush and held it on to one of the top buds and I immediately had three ants on it. I transferred them to the bottom bud. Two of them stayed there and one of them ran off to the top. I assumed that it was going to tell the others that there is a bud at the bottom with the population of two ants. I think what I did could be called “Anting around”. (Another word invention, I’m contributing to the English language.) After I came back after one hour, the bottom bud had now a large ant population. I felt like a proud Scout, having done a good deed, but I bet they won’t recognise this and will bite me if get to close too them. To enlarge picture, click on them.

There was sunlight on the left side of this bud, (See Picture) and the bulk of the ants were on the other side.  As soon as the sunlight had gone more ants came to the left side and the bud was fully covered with ants. All 4 buds were covered with the Green Ants like the one in the picture. I discovered they have built a nest on the plant, which is between two big stems and well sheltered from the rain. As those ants are weaver ants and normally roll and glue leaves together for their nests, this was not possible with these dragon fruit stems. So they glued two big stems together. Please read also  more about those little interesting creatures, in a previous posting, “The ubiquitous Green Ants”. – Werner
My thought for today, - Werner
Animals are such agreeable friends - they ask no questions; they pass no criticisms.George Eliot
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Friday, December 18, 2015

Donald Trump – Not politically correct.

There are many people around the world who wonder why the American presidential candidate is so popular in the polls. You will find the following article by David Limbaugh very interesting. This is probably the best written statement that's come along as to why Trump is leading the Republican candidate polls. This man is an articulate & eloquent wordsmith with a talent for framing his arguments in visceral terms.   His discussions pretty much puts America's political scene, as impacted by Trump, in crystal clear focus.

While our politicians are trapped in political correctness, this guy is “attuned” to what the bulk of the population is thinking and, he says so, in other words, he calls a spate a spate and not a shovel.

When Tony Abbott our former PM made a speech recently and said exactly how things are, he was vilified. Are our politicians really so “lily-livered” and frightened to tell the truth and, not constantly kowtow to a minority in our country who wants to foist their ancient culture on us?  Perhaps our politicians can learn something from this article below. - Werner
The Establishment Birthed Trump.
Much of the establishment's criticism of Donald Trump comes from its failure to comprehend the reasons for his soaring popularity. Establishment types seem untroubled by the problems facing America, so they can't understand the urgency that fathered Trump's rise. Minor adjustments to the Hindenburg's dining room menu just aren't going to get it. (Like organizing the deck chairs on the Titanic after the iceberg strike?   Ed.)

Their overwrought analysis, their hand-wringing and their contemptuousness for Trump, betray a disdain not only for Trump, but for Americans who recognize the gravity of America's predicament - and who, in desperation, have turned to Trump for bold action.

It's hard to overstate Americans' concern for the state of the nation. Horrified by President Obama's Sherman-esque march through America, they're tired of hearing that nothing can be done. They are through with empty promises from establishment politicians.

People are tired of Obama's pitting blacks against whites, women against men, gays against heterosexuals, rich against poor, non-taxpayers against taxpayers, citizens against cops and his Muslims against Christians. They can no longer stomach Obama's apologizing for America and excusing terrorists while rushing to attack Christians at every turn.

People are sick of being called racists for things that happened in this country before they were born or before they could vote, for opposing Obama's destructive agenda, or for simply being Republicans.
They abhor the war on cops orchestrated by racial hucksters and pandering politicians. They're incredulous that any president would deliberately engineer America's decline and degrade our military. They're tired of the nation's chief executive officer's flouting laws and thwarting the people's will.

Americans are sick of Obama's trashing America's founding, assaulting capitalism, and bellowing about man-made global warming as a pretense to impose more liberty-smothering regulations. They're nauseated by politicians who are more interested in bipartisanship with scofflaws than with saving the nation.

People are mortified by the nation's fiscal instability, our unbridled national debt, its spiraling entitlements and Washington's refusal to address them. They're sick of the fraudulent spending "cuts." They've had their fill of the lies, especially about Obamacare, whose costs dwarf Obama's promised projections and are getting worse by the day.  They've reached their limit with this administration's rewarding unemployment and laziness while punishing work, its honoring socialism and demonizing capitalism.

People are sick of politically correct bullies. They're exhausted by lectures about not paying their fair share when half the income earners don't pay income taxes. They're fed up with lies about decreasing unemployment rates when tens of millions have dropped out of the workforce.

Every other week, we face a new existential threat to the nation - threats perpetrated or enabled by Obama and the Washington establishment. But the establishment meets these perils with very barely disguised indifference. Islamic terrorism is overrunning the Middle East and has reached our mainland, and Obama doesn't dare whisper its name.  Obama refuses to enforce the borders; he orders his administration not to enforce immigration laws; he lawlessly grants amnesty to millions of immigrants who are here illegally; and he's using the government departments to set up sanctuary cities that harbor criminal immigrants.

Last year, we faced an invasion from Central America; now, in the name of compassion, we are inviting in Syrian refugees - some 72 percent of whom are, curiously, men. Are we truly afraid to wonder aloud whether those who sidestep the legal immigration process will embrace the American idea? Whether they will end up on the welfare rolls?

With Congress' help, Obama bypassed the Constitution's treaty clause and entered into a reckless, non-verifiable nuke deal with Iran and will give the Iranians a $150 billion signing bonus to fund terrorism and build ballistic missiles.

So where does that leave us?

People have heard one too many times that the Republican Party, if it regains control, will turn things around.  Republicans have been so timid in opposing Obama's agenda that many have quit believing they'll be able to reverse this madness if they acquire full control.

Along comes Trump, who gives voice to these legitimate grievances instead of calling people racist, selfish or hysterical. He emphasizes the urgency of these problems, and he denounces the status quo, the establishment, Washington inertia and political correctness without an ounce of apology. People are dehydrated, and he's their Gatorade.Whether Trump could or would deliver on his promises is one thing, but the establishment's arrogant failure to acknowledge, let alone decry the horror of, the status quo is his lifeblood. If Trump is a monster, the establishment is Dr. Frankenstein, so please spare us the lectures.

I happen to prefer other candidates, and certain things about Trump make me nervous; but I appreciate that he is shaking things up, and I refuse to belittle Trump's supporters for believing he would be more effective than many of his establishment rivals. Our forefathers' precious gift of liberty to us is not self-sustaining, and if we don't quit kicking it to the curb, it'll leave us, never to return.

David Limbaugh is a writer, author and attorney. Follow him on Twitter @davidlimbaugh and his website at
My thought for today. – Werner
Government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem. - Ronald Reagan

Monday, December 7, 2015

Table manners, a blast from the past.

Table manners, the behaviour that is conventionally required while eating at a table is different in many cultures around the world, and has evolved over time. Today, they are much different than a long time ago as you will read in the following story. However, today’s modern world has brought about some undesired table manners, with annoying “side effects”. It is when visitors are playing with their electronic devices - instead talking to you. Common sense should tell you that this is not appropriate, but unfortunately, common sense is not so common anymore. So enjoy the following story, but we certainly don’t want to revert to those customs. Perhaps you can make a comment about your rules at the dinner table. - Werner

How table manners became polite.

By Sharon J. Huntington
If you think sitting up straight and keeping your elbows off the table is a bother, be grateful you weren't a child of America's early settlers.
Back then, children didn't even get to sit at the table. They stood behind the adults and ate whatever was handed to them.

Later, children were allowed to sit at the table, but they couldn't speak unless an adult spoke to them. (This rule should be retained. – Werner) They couldn't ask for a dish, either. They had to wait until a grownup offered it to them. It was also considered rude to fidget, sing, or look at someone else who was eating.

Table manners are even older than tables. About 9,000 years ago, people cooked soups in pots. They dipped spoons of wood or bone into the cooking pot to eat. The first rules about eating determined who could dip into the pot first. Today some Inuit families in the Arctic still follow the tradition of eating from a common pot. Men get to dip in first, then women and children. Sometimes they don't use spoons. They just pick out pieces of meat with their fingers.

Eating with the fingers is a common custom. (Finger liking good!) - Werner) For about a thousand years, Romans and Greeks ate while lying on their sides on couches, with their heads pointed toward the table. One hand propped them up, the other handled the food. The Roman Empire finally fell in AD 476, and reclining dining customs disappeared as well.

Eating with the fingers never disappeared. Some Arab families still follow this custom. They use only the first three fingers of the right hand. In northern India, some diners use only the fingertips of the right hand, but in the south both hands are OK. In fact, far more people eat with fingers or chopsticks than use forks and spoons. But everyone has rules about eating politely.

Table manners became quite important in Europe in the 1100s. That's when people developed the idea of courtesy - how to behave in court. Soon these rules began appearing in written texts.

The rules about eating were meant to make the experience pleasant, thoughtful, and tidy. Early texts instructed diners to keep their elbows down and not to speak with their mouths full. Polite diners were not to pick their teeth with their knives or be greedy.

In 1530, a Dutchman named Erasmus wrote a book on manners titled "On Civility in Children." Erasmus told people not to blow their noses or spit at the table, and never to put chewed bones back on their plates. (The polite thing then was to throw bones on the floor. That gave the dogs something to eat.)

In those days, people didn't have regular dining tables. At mealtimes, boards were laid across trestles and covered with cloth. (That's where "setting the table" comes from.) At banquets, no individual plates were used, only large serving platters. Two people shared each soup bowl and used squares of stale bread as plates. The edible plates were called trenchers. After the meal, they were given to the poor.

During the Crusades, between AD 1000 and 1300, even knights had to learn manners.
They were often paired with a lady at dinner, sharing food and drinking glasses. Knights learned not to lick their fingers, but to wipe them on the tablecloth. They were also told not to smack their lips, snort, or put their faces in their food.

In the 1300s, the Renaissance arrived. So did the fork. And new table customs evolved. People ate from plates, and everyone had his own cup. Fingers were to be wiped on napkins, not tablecloths. Bones were not to be thrown on the floor, but left on the plate. Manners kept moving toward cleanliness and order.

In 1669, King Louis XIV of France ordered that all table knives have rounded ends. This made eating with knives a little less dangerous for the diner and anyone with whom he or she might become angry. Louis XIV was the first person in Europe to offer guests a place setting with forks, knives, and spoons.

Table manners continued to evolve. People debated how to eat peas.
They were difficult to spear with a fork and hard to balance on a knife. As more families bought tableware, more guides were needed for how to use it. Some were written especially for children. In "Goops and How To Be Them" (1900), Gelett Burgess used horribly ill-mannered creatures called Goops as bad examples. He wrote:

The Goops they lick their fingers,
And the Goops they lick their knives;
They spill their broth on the tablecloth -
Oh, they lead disgusting lives!
The Goops they talk while eating,
And loud and fast they chew;
And that is why I'm glad that I
Am not a Goop - are you?

You probably use many simple table manners without thinking. You probably say "please" and "thank you," and ask for food to be passed to you, rather than reaching over everyone for it.

Other rules come into play in more formal settings, like parties, where you're supposed to use the right fork and dispose of olive pits properly. If you're ever a guest somewhere and aren't sure you've got all the rules down, just watch the host or hostess. Do what they do. Even if you use the wrong fork, you'll be following the basic principle of table manners: Think about others and make dining as pleasant as possible.
My thought for today.Werner
“The real test of good manners is to be able to put up with bad manners pleasantly.” - Kahlil Gibran
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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Why is there so much hostility in this world?

Yes, why is there so much hatred and trouble in this world. Have we forgotten the words “love” and “peace”?  Religious hatred and violence run rampant throughout the entire civilized world and today. Now we have seen what the so called religion of peace was capable of doing in Paris; also Australia and around Europe.  They are causing untold human suffering and destruction - and our politicians are sleeping at the wheel and still talk about moderate Islam. Yet the Turkish President states that there is no such a thing, “Islam is Islam!” Now Europe is shutting the gate after the horses have bolted. When will we shut the gate to Muslim immigration?
That Muslim Children are offended with our National Anthem and walk out of a school is incomprehensible  and absolutely intolerable. I have reports from family  and friends in Germany and everybody is deeply worried and most Germans are not happy with what Merkel has done.

The list of religiously inspired conflicts goes on and on.
Islamic fundamentalism is preaching hatred to the gullible, and wants to kill anyone outside their square.  It just doesn’t make sense. The Islamic culture is just not compatible with Australia or other Western countries. The reason they come here and not to an Islamic country is simple, they want to bread us out and take us over. I’m starting to worry about my grandchildren and great grandchildren in what kind of Australia they will in 20 year time.
We are still fighting futile unwinnable wars, costly in money and lives. Haven’t we learnt any lessons from World War Two, which was supposed to be the war that ended all wars? Will we ever learn? Perhaps we should centre upon the old adage: “Make love not war.” Hear what Pat Condell has to say about the Paris attack? Click here.
Someone sent me the following. I don't know who wrote this, but it should be considered seriously. Take it as you wish - but give it some thought. A lot of this could also apply for Australia -in the not too distant future. - Werner
                          * * * * * * *
 A man whose family was German aristocracy prior to World War II owned a number of large industries and estates. When asked how many German people were true Nazis, the answer he gave can guide our attitude toward fanaticism.

'Very few people were true Nazis", he said, but many enjoyed the return of German pride, and many more were too busy to care. I was one of those who just thought the Nazis were a bunch of fools. So, the majority just sat back and let it all happen. Then, before we knew it, they owned us, and we had lost control, and the end of the world had come. My family lost everything. I ended up in a concentration camp and the Allies destroyed my factories.'
 We are told again and again by 'experts' and 'talking heads' that Islam is the religion of peace, and that the vast majority of Muslim just wants to live in peace. Although this unqualified assertion may be true, it is entirely irrelevant. It is meaningless fluff, meant to make us feel better, and meant to somehow diminish the spectre of fanatics rampaging across the globe in the name of Islam. The fact is that the fanatics rule Islam at this moment in history.
It is the fanatics who march. It is the fanatics who wage any one of 50 shooting wars worldwide. It is the fanatics who systematically slaughter Christian or tribal groups throughout Africa and are gradually taking over the entire continent in an Islamic wave. It is the fanatics, who bomb, behead, murder, or honour kills. It is the fanatics who take over mosque after mosque. It is the fanatics who zealously spread the stoning and hanging of rape victims and homosexuals. The hard quantifiable fact is that the 'peaceful majority', the 'silent majority', is cowed and extraneous.

Communist Russia was comprised of Russians who just wanted to live in peace
, yet the Russian Communists were responsible for the murder of about 20 million people. The peaceful majority were irrelevant. China's huge population was peaceful as well, but Chinese Communists managed to kill a staggering 70 million people.

The average Japanese individual prior to World War II was not a warmongering sadist. Yet, Japan murdered and slaughtered its way across South East Asia in an orgy of killing that included the systematic murder of 12 million Chinese civilians; most killed by sword, shovel, and bayonet. And, who can forget Rwanda, which collapsed into butchery. Could it not be said that the majority of Rwandans were 'peace loving'?

 History lessons are often incredibly simple and blunt, yet for all our powers of reason we often miss the most basic and uncomplicated of points: Peace-loving Muslims have been made irrelevant by their silence. Peace-loving Muslims will become our enemy if they don't speak up, because like my friend from Germany, they will awaken one day and find that the fanatics own them, and the end of their world will have begun.

Germans, Japanese, Chinese, Russians, Rwandans, Serbs, Afghanis, Iraqis, Palestinians, Somalis, Nigerians, Algerians, and many others have died because the peaceful majority did not speak up until it was too late. As for us who watch it all unfold; we must pay attention to the only group that counts; the fanatics who threaten our way of life.

Lastly, at the risk of offending, anyone who doubts that the issue is serious and just deletes this email without sending it on, is contributing to the passiveness that allows the problems to expand.

England has almost surrendered to the Islamic wave having more than 130 new mosques built in 2005 and proposed 100 to be built in 2006 - in 2007 the count was 843 prayer meeting places with howling/wailing towers across England. In 2015 there are many more.

So, extend yourself a bit and send this on and on and on! Let us hope that thousands, world wide, read this - think about it - and send it on. Perhaps sometimes, the end does 'not' justify the means.  (Author Unknown)
My thought for today. – Werner
It is much easier at all times to prevent an evil than to rectify mistakes.- George Washington.

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Monday, November 2, 2015

My Cashew Nut Tree.

Here is another interesting story from my varied life. Life is about learning new things and I hope that you learn something from this story. - Werner

Most people enjoy eating cashew nuts,
but if I were to ask how many know how they evolve before reaching the consumption stage, few would put their hands up – and I would have been one of them, until recently. This story started quite unintentionally and took four years to unfold.

It is quite interesting that the cashew nut actually grows two fruits, the apple, and the nut underneath it; they can be yellow or red, depending on the variety. To my knowledge there is no other plant that produces two different fruits on the same stem. In some regions in the world they refer to the cashew nut tree, also as the “Cashew Apple Tree.”  This picture shows the apples and nuts, and you see in the middle how the thickened stem above the nut develops into the apple. To enlarge pictures, just click on it!

Many years ago I saw a cashew tree full with fruit on a friend’s farm.
  He grew it merely as a novelty and not for the nuts. The reason being, the tree is a sight to behold with its yellow apples, but the kidney shaped nutshells below the apple are toxic and it is a difficult process to extract the nut before it can be eaten. So this was all I knew about this subject.  The cashew nuts we eat in Australia come in the main from India, or Africa  and are processed there because extracting the nut is a labour intense process. PROCESSING OF CASHEW NUTS HOME. 
This story had its beginning four years ago, when I found several kidney shaped cashew nutshells spread over an area in the grass while moving my lawn. Because of that limited “cashew nut lecture” years ago on my friend’s farm I had no trouble recognising what I had found. I pondered though how the nuts had arrived on my lawn knowing that nobody in our close proximity has a cashew nut tree, and I surmised that the carriers would have been fruit bats which ate the apple and dropped the nut. I planted three of the nuts, each in a separate pot, and in due course three cashew plants emerged. Several months later I planted the most vigorous of the three seedlings in my yard, and got rid of the other two as I couldn’t find anybody wanting to plant a cashew nut tree.

After four years the tree had grown to a height of 3.5 metres,
but I thought that nothing would come out of it and that it may shade my veggie garden too much and I decided to cut the tree down. I had already removed some branches close to the ground in order to get better access to the trunk with the chainsaw. When I was about to cut down the tree, I noticed some branches were starting to produce flowers. So this gave the tree a temporary reprieve, as I was keen to find out if it would bear fruit – and it did. Now this tree will become a permanent fixture in my yard, even if it is only for the novelty value. However, the DPI in Cairns sent me instructions on how to process the nut and get it out from its toxic shell.  But it was too complicated and not worth doing it. Picture on right: Cashew nut blossoms. From tiny blossoms big apples and nuts grow.
It has been a wonderful opportunity to observe the development of this tree and its fruit on a daily basis – and my digital camera comes in handy to take pictures, which are immediately available.

The blossom bearing part starts with a stem with numerous sprigs to which very tiny, but numerous flowers are attached. In addition, I observed a teeming multitude of tiny insects, visiting the flowers and no doubt assisting with the pollination. Interestingly the kidney shaped nut develops first, and right above the nut is a thickened green stem, which starts to develop the apple as soon as the nut has attained its full size.

It takes approximately ninety days from the flowers to the time when the apple  turns yellow and drops off; this is then the time to remove the nut. The apple is edible, has a pleasant aroma and is very juicy. It can be used to make jam or jelly.  I’m told it is eaten by  the natives in some countries. Once the apples are on the ground they start to ferment and deteriorate quickly, and become part of the food chain for ants.

Although cashews are one of the lowest-fibre nuts, they are packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. These include vitamins E, K, and B6, along with minerals like copper, phosphorus, zinc, magnesium, iron, and selenium, all of which are important for maintaining good bodily function.
More reading about cashews. 
1. Are cashew good for you?
2. Cashew nut nutrition facts.
3. What are cashews good for? Dr. Mercola
4. Health benefits with video.
5. Cashew nut processing.
6. The nut that you can’t buy in the shell.

My thought for today. – Werner
Learning never exhausts the mind. -  Leonardo da Vinci

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Sunday, October 25, 2015

Syria, a human tragedy of untold suffering.

If we want to end the war in Syria and destroy ISIS then we need Bashar Assad on our side - period! Do we want to make the same mistake again as in Libya and Iraq? Assad is not as bad a guy as America or we want to portray him.  So, who really is Assad, of Syria? Let me tell you some facts. Bashar Assad; his wife Asma and their children wear Western clothes and celebrate birthdays. Asma Assad doesn’t cover her head even in public, and he sports a "Western" hair cut.  They are not Sunni or Shiite Muslims, but follow the Allawite faith (Google it) which condensed means:”Get along, but don’t push or convert me”.
Many people are unaware that Dr. Bashar Assad is in fact a medical doctor. He also graduated from King’s College London in 1996 with a Bachelor of Science degree in computer science, and French literature. Mrs. Assad speaks English, Arabic, French and Spanish. Before she became the First Lady, she worked as an economic analyst in banking. (Picture, Assad and his wife)

Mrs. Assad and her husband are nothing like Muslims. This alone angers the Sunni Muslims in the area. They detest Alawites and, they have been persecuted by extremist Sunnis for centuries. All these facts are valid and can be researched and found as being true.

We have seen and will see a lot more of demonization of the Assad’s and you will read the  horrible Western propaganda, including those now proven false accusation about using chemical weapon on Syrian people. Even the UN has found and admitted that Assad was not guilty of that and that he was framed.

However, many in the Western World are ignorant of valid data and will believe the propaganda. It is a well known fact that the propaganda is lying media fodder. Some, it is said, comes from the White House – and of course from the Islamic fundamentalists and, from ignorant Americans who seem to be incapable of doing their own research.

Russia has now joined the bombing fray, beside the USA, Australia, United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Netherlands, France, Denmark, Belgium, Canada, Bahrain. One has to wonder how much will be left of the country when they are finished with it.
Jordan initially joined in airstrikes against ISIS, but suspended its participation when one of its aircraft went down in Syria, which was leading to the capture of pilot Lt. Moath al-Kasasbeh. The kingdom resumed its attacks in February after ISIS released a video depicting the pilot being burned to death in a cage. (You can’t call these men "animals" who perpetrated this awful crime, as this would be an insult to the animals – scums of this earth would be more fitting. – Werner) 
Most of Syria or northern Iraq has become unlivable because of the widespread destruction caused by the war. Syria had a population of 22 million, it is said, that 11 million have left the country and  are either dead or are refugees, the latter trying to get to other countries and - most of them can ill-afford to take them. The longer this war continuous more people will be displaced and this tragedy will only intensify.

Every military strategist and blind Freddie would know that it would need boots on the ground to re-capture the areas lost to ISIS.
However, forget about the Iraqi defence forces doing it, they are useless and their military vehicles have only very fast reverse gears. 
I have personally experienced the horrors of war and can only say: “War is the biggest atrocity inflicted on mankind”. I think 'Make love, not war' might be the most profound statement that's ever been made.
Read more.
My thought for today. Werner
An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.- Mahatma Gandhi

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Chamber Music, from a different chamber.

I learnt from an early age how to avoid a negative answer. I never asked my parents or grandparents whether I could do a certain thing or not – I just did it. Period! Needless to say, this trait caused me a lot of trouble. Every day when my parent and grandparents woke up they must have thought, “What on earth will Werner be up to, today?”  - Werner

Have you ever wondered how the term “Chamber Music” came to be used? Read on and I’ll tell you . . . .
I was four and a half year old, and shortly after my appendectomy, I inadvertently caused some more consternation for my parents.  Somehow I managed to swallow a 5 Mark coin.  It had a lot of value then and was about the size of our 50-cent coin.  The doctor was called, but it was decided not to send me to the hospital since the object was round and I had no discomfort.  

However, my mother closely watched me.  Castor oil, that purgative lubricant that makes ‘things run smoothly’ was administered and I was under strict instructions not to go to the toilet when nature called.  Instead, I had to sit on what was then the fashionable standard bedroom equipment – the chamber pot.

Of course, my parents were anxious to get their money back and, at the same time were naturally concerned about the piece of ‘hardware’ circulating around my intestines, and the possibility of causing me injury. For nearly two days, then, when nature commanded, I had to sit on my ‘throne’ to do my business.  Then my mother, in the hope of getting her money back, closely examined the outcome. 

Halfway through the second day, I felt the urge to sit on my ‘royal seat’ again.  My mother stood nearby listening carefully.  All of a sudden, a clanging noise was heard originating from the nether regions of the chamber pot.  This was real ‘chamber music’ to my mother’s ear as it indicated to her that ‘the penny had finally dropped’.  But for my mother the worst was still to come – separating the real money from my ‘deposit’ and putting it back into circulation again.  And that is how the term “Chamber Music” was to be coined.

The moral of the story is:
Never put money in your mouth – you never know where it has been, or where it has come from.
My thought for today. – Werner
Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes. - Oscar Wilde

Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Ubiquitous Green Ants.

My first contact with Green Ants was when I came to North Queensland in 1958, and picked some oranges from my boss’ tree. They didn’t like my intrusion into their domain and soon had my arm full of these little biting blighters.  When I moved to Yorkeys Knob they were already inhabitants on various trees in our yard. This was a great opportunity to observe them closely, which I found extremely interesting. Following is my story about those interesting little biting creatures. - Werner
What kinds of birds build these nests?  A visitor asked me, pointing to two big leafy lumps high up in our mahogany tree. (See Photo) He was only partly right; they were nests alright, however, not made by birds, but our Green Ants, Oecophylla smaragdina.

Very few people living north of the tropic of Capricorn in Australia would not have encountered them. The Green Ant belongs to the worldwide clan of weaver ants which weave their nests together out of leaves, to create a sort of globular home. I come in contact with and, observe those insects on a daily basis as we have many trees and bushes in our yard and around us.  However, they prefer, so it seems, to build their nests on fruit trees, if there are any, thus, they are close to one of their food source such as nectar or the sweet excretions from aphids and scale insects.  Apart from that they also forage on invertebrates found on the ground or vegetation.

These unique nests are made by joining leaves together by using a silky substance produced from their larvae which they obtain from the nursery of an existing nest.
Individual colonies can become very large, with several nests spread over separate trees. They clamber all over the tree and serve to protect their nest from invaders. They are very aggressive and defend their nests vigorously, but their bites are not long lasting, nor do they have the ferocious sting of other ant species such as Bull Ants or Jumper Ants.

The colouring is obviously what distinguishes this green tree (weaver) ant from its "cousin" the red weaver found in Asia. Its body is a green or even a pale yellow, and its mandibles (Jaws) have 10+ teeth and they have 5 outer or maxillary palps segments, and 4 inner or labial palps segments. Picture: A Green Ant nest.  With time, some or all leaves die and the nest looks brown.

Worker ants transport the Larvae between their mandibles (Jaws) to the "construction site". The larva is then, with light pressure, squeezed between an ant’s mandible to produce the silk which is used to weave and stick the leaves together, which they obtain from the nursery of an existing nest. If one ant cannot reach the next leave to join it to the nest, the green tree ants will build an ant chain to slowly pull the leaves into and connect them to the nest they are building. During construction the new nest is a hive of activity, scurrying ants everywhere, as these small creatures are a great example of how team work can produce a product much bigger and complex than any individual could hope to achieve.

 The nest ends up being an oval (globular) shape up to 1/2 meter long but usually around 300mm, and because it is made from the leaves of the plant/tree it is constructed in; it is often well camouflaged and hard to see. One colony can have any number of "individual" nests on one and nearby trees, making up their colony. Picture: Nest under construction.

Over the years I have experienced many times the aggressiveness of these ants when I have to pick fruit from our Soursop tree and in particular our big mango tree.  If you accidentally knock their nest then it doesn’t take long before you are covered with countless ants biting you.  While you can tolerate their bites for a while, but lots ants attacking simultaneously can be rather uncomfortable. You don’t even have to knock their nest, just getting too close to it and they are at you.

However once they get inside your clothes, especially the underpants, then a tactical retreat to the ground is the best option. Taking your clothes off and shaking them out to get rid of some, but to get them out of your body hair, usually requires the assistance of my wife, as it is not easy to get them off the back by yourself. This procedure takes place as often as I climb into the tree to pick fruit – these confounded ants don’t seem to understand that it is my tree and not theirs.

The trees they have in mango plantations today are especially bred to grow a much smaller trees size and the fruit can be picked with mechanical devises and the Green Ants are not much of a bother, if any. When I planted our tree in 1971 it was in a little pot. In those days you couldn’t get the smaller tree variety. As I write this story (2004) this tree is 10 meters high the tree trunk has a girth of 1.5 meters and a diameter of 80 centimeters.

It has also been found that Green Ants are valuable asset to mango and citrus growers as they keep aphids and scale insects at bay in their plantations, apart from that they also help with pollination. Oil from their abdomen has also been used by indigenous aboriginal people for sweetening water and for medical purposes.

 I find it interesting to observe them walking along the cross rails of my fence; it is a busy “Ant Highway” and it is a two-way traffic. When two ants, going in different directions meet, they stop for a moment, then are on the way again.  I assume, they say hello, sniff each other out or tell where to find food, it would really be interesting to know.  I have seen Green Ants carrying little pieces of white fragments, probably an aphid, and another ant wants to take it, then the ant either turns around or goes around the other ant and escapes.  So, it looks that they have also thieves amongst them.

Sometimes, I observe a number of Green Ants standing in a circle with their heads in the centre and nearly touching each other, or a whole bunch of ants congregating on the fence post, it looks like that they’re having a meeting. You can find Green Ants just about everywhere wandering around here in the north and far away from their nests. No doubt, they must have a build-in guidance system to find their way back to their nest. I often wonder who gives the command to do whatever they do, or is it pure instinct and all their tasks are programmed and embedded into their little brains or whatever it is they think with.
Every time I open our second gate to our property I interrupt their march along the fence and by the time I close the gate there is a big assembly of green ants at both ends of the opening, waiting for their highway to be “reopened.” While these little creatures are very ingenious in many ways, they seem to be unable to think of going down the open gate to the ground and up again on the other side and join their mates on the other side.

Appendix.The Green Ants and the dead lizard.

Some time ago I had a rare opportunity, to watch a natural spectacle to unfold in front of me.  As I walked out to my backyard I saw a great number of Green Ants, they are about 6 to 8 mm long; pushing a lizard 150 mm long up my sunshade post.  The picture I took of it was described by friends as one in a million. It took 30 minutes to move 30 cm up the post. I’m still puzzled by their action and wondering why they were doing this as they could not be called carnivores and, as I wrote before, they live mainly from the sweet substance exuded by aphids, but also devour small invertebrates.  This happened just before our Wet Season, and the instinct must have told them to bring it to a higher ground.

However, the moral of this story is: With teamwork anything can be achieved. It just shows that the difference between success and failure is a great team. And, Helen Keller was so right when she said: "Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much."
See also: Our Skyrail at Smithfield and Green Ants.
My thought for today.
– Werner
If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself. -- Henry Ford