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New Concept English 3-54

Lesson 54 Instinct or cleverness?

We have been brought up to fear insects. We regard them as unnecessary creatures that do
more harm than good. Man continually wages war on item, for they contaminate his food, carry
diseases, or devour his crops. They sting or bite without provocation; they fly uninvited into our
rooms on summer nights, or beat against our lighted windows. We live in dread not only of unpleasant insects like spiders or wasps, but of quite harmless ones like moths. Reading about
them increases our understanding with out dispelling our fears. Knowing that the industrious ant
lives in a highly organized society does nothing to prevent us from being filled with revulsion
when we find hordes of them crawling over a carefully prepared picnic lunch. No matter how
much we like honey, or how much we have read about the uncanny sense of direction which bees
possess, we have a horror of being stung. Most of our fears are unreasonable, but they are impossible to erase. At the same time, however, insects are strangely fascinaing. We enjoy reading about them, especially when we find that, like the praying mantis, they lead perfectly
horrible lives. We enjoy staring at them entranced as they go about their business, unaware (we
hope) of our presence. Who has not stood in awe at the sight of a spider pouncing on a fly, or a
column of ants triumphantly bearing home an enormous dead beetle ?

Last summer I spent days in the garden watching thousands of ants crawling up the trunk of
my prize peach tree. The tree has grown against a warm wall on a sheltered side of the house. I
am especially proud of it, not only because it has survived several severe winters, but because it
occasionally produces luscious peaches. During the summer, I noticed that the leaves of the tree
were beginning to wither. Clusters of tiny insects called aphides were to be found on the underside of the leaves. They were visited by a laop colony of ants which obtained a sort of honey
from them. I immediately embarked on an experiment which, even though it failed to get rid of
the ants, kept me fascinated for twenty-four hours. I bound the base of the tree with sticky tape ,
making it impossible for the ants to reach the aphides. The tape was so sticky that they did not
dare to cross it. For a long time, I watched them scurrying around the base of the tree in bewilderment. I even went out at midnight with a torch and noted with satisfaction (and surprise)
that the ants were still swarming around the sticky tape without being able to do anything about
it. I got up early next morning hoping to find that the ants had given up in despair. Instead, I saw
that they had discovered a new route. They were climbing up the wall of the house and then on
to the leaves of the tree. I realized sadly that I had been completely defeated by their ingenuity.
The ants had been quick to find an answer to my thoroughly unscientific methods!