Excerpt from children’s story collection Solar Girl and Lunar Boy.
The drought had lasted many moons. Life’s energy on earth was slipping away. Mammals, reptiles and fish had perished in silent misery.
Plants, grass and trees were nothing more than brittle, gray, useless matter. Every source of water was bone dry. Ponds, rivers, streams, lakes, glaciers and snow had all evaporated in the sun’s scorching heat without the slightest whimper of protest.
Insects were the only creatures to survive. The most numerous and efficient of the insects were from the Formicidae (Form-a-ka-day) family – more commonly known as ANTS.
With over 15,000,000,000,000,000 (15 quadrillion) members and “at least” 4,000 different species; the ants continued to eke out a living.
Ants stick together come low or high water. They live in groups called colonies. Each ant has a specific job as a queen, soldier or worker. The queens lay eggs; the soldiers kidnap other ants; and the workers make the nests and bring home the food. Most live and die as workers.
As the drought continued the Formicidae’s (ants) old methods of obtaining food began to fail. Normally a few scouts would discover a food source and lay down “odor” or “smell” trails for the workers to follow. Others would eat the food they found, return to the nest and proudly throw-up to show they had discovered a feast for the entire family.
One day some of the queen ants began to notice that many of the male workers were not returning from food expeditions.
Ants, as you know, are very sensitive to changes in moisture. After tasting some of the soil the queens realized what was happening. The ground water was slowly disappearing. The missing ants must have died of thirst. Drastic action had to be taken or they would soon perish!
As the queens cried about their fate, a small worker ant, known as Mosha, timidly raised her voice and said, “We can’t solve this alone. Why don’t we get all the colonies together?”
What an incredible idea! No one had ever dreamed of such a thing. The queens instantly agreed and sent an urgent decree for all Formicidae to meet on the Serengeti Plain in East Africa.
It wasn’t long until ant colonies from all corners of the globe began to arrive.
Some made the treacherous journey floating on wooden logs across the sea. Others glided with the breeze on leaves they had bound by silk. Long columns were seen marching across the barren land in an array of bright colors and sizes.
If you looked closely you could see Sauba ants from South America and Red and Wood ants from North America. Running from India, came Sima rufo-nigra colonies. From Australia and Tasmania swarmed Bull-dog and Myrmecia Formicidae. Hawaii sent l. Falcigera families floating on gusts of wind. Java displayed Dicthadia tribes, and eastern Asia had Oecophylla smarogdima coming by the thousands.
In the midst of this historic event were the Africans. Algeria and Tunisia sent Messor’s. South Africa had a large Honey-tub contingent and African Driver ants were everywhere.
What a sight! The entire Serengeti Plain was brimming with over 15 quadrillion ants! It looked as if a soft, reddish-brown carpet had been laid out from one end to the other. Even more amazing was the fact that not one incident of violence or kidnapping was reported.
The ants had agreed upon a peace treaty for the first time. Up until the drought the colonies had often fought one another and embarked on frequent slave raids. Most reported “battles” between Formicidae are actually raids to obtain additional larvae (baby ants) to increase that colonies work force.
As the Ants United Nations of Tribes (A.U.N.T.) began to meet, a humongous, dark, enchanting cloud arose over Mount Kilimanjaro (the highest mountain in Africa).
At first the ants were scared. It was so big its shadow covered the entire Serengeti Plain with darkness. Their fear quickly turned to happiness when they realized this cloud could end the long drought.
After two long, cold days of anticipation it became clear that this cloud was not heavy enough to drop the life-giving rain that was so needed, even though it was their last hope. Time was running out.
How could they convince this rainmaker to drop its precious cargo? They tried talking to the cloud. It didn’t budge. They yelled, screamed and begged for it to release its water, but it didn’t seem to care. Even ancient rain songs wouldn’t budge its frozen heart.
Putting their antennas’ together, Mosha and the other ants came up with a daring plan. If enough of them could make it to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro alive and breath heavily upon the cloud, perhaps that would create the moisture (condensation) it needed to release the rain it held so tightly.