The Strange Case of the Missing Gastropods

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/aug/17/ants-can-beat-pesticides-helping-farmers-grow-healthy-crops-study-aoe

Ants are generalist predators and hunt pests that damage fruits, seeds and leaves, leading to a drop in crop yields. A greater diversity of ants generally provides more protection against a wider range of pests, the study found.

https://www.theguardian.com/profile/phoebe-weston

A fascinating article about how ants can be a biological control for pests, which prompted me to take a look around the garden for my residents with my phone camera.

I found two different types of ant, though I know nothing about ants so they could be different kinds of the same species. One type was black and very fast scurrying across the soil. The other type was larger, slower, reddish brown and had large ‘pincers’, possibly not pincers at all but that’s how they looked. I took dozens of photos but not a single one was in focus, which was very disappointing; the phone really isn’t up to this kind of photography. Plus ants have excellent camoflage against soil so even the better ones where they could be distinguised against the soil were useless for illustration.

As this expedition did not turn out well for evidence, here is a delightful, compensatory, almost minimalist painting instead. There are additional examples of Zeshin’s mastery in the online collection. https://collections.mfa.org/search/objects/*/Zeshin%20

Shibata Zeshin ‘Persimmon and Ants’

I tried searching all around the garden but didn’t see more. In fact, all I saw were a couple of very quick spiders and a few vacated snail shells. I am still a bit perplexed at how little evidence of any creepy crawlies there is out there; it almost seems sterile. I don’t blame the ants for any of this; but looking for ants revealed how little of anything is dwelling in the soil, even though a lack of gastropods is possibly an enviable quality it still seems unnatural.

The Snail 1953 Henri Matisse 1869-1954 Purchased with assistance from the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1962 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T00540

I noticed barely any earthworms when I was preparing the borders but didn’t pay much heed at the time. Actually, I’ve only seen two slugs and the black kale was practically pristine before the cabbage white caterpillars hatched. Although, the raddishes never materialised and they were written off as slug damage but now realise there should have been signs of slug trails and these were missing.

We do feed the birds but they are mainly tits, finches, robins and sparrows. Blackbirds are not regular visitors and I’m not certain whether I’ve seen thrushes.

Watanabe Seitei Sparrows Flying https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/54645

It is a bit of a puzzle. Hedgehogs? Not moles, as no obvious mounds currently. There is no near water, eliminating amphibians.

https://www.nhm.ac.uk/discover/hedgehog-erinaceus-europaeus.html

Hedgehog – drawing in ink and wash (2018) by Luci Power

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