Little Six Legs by Sheila Buchanan Buell -Chapter 1

       Spring is here.  All the plants and animals are waking up after a long winter sleep.  Bright yellow-green leaves are bursting out everywhere.  Flowers, of yellow, blue and purple hue cover the ground even under the trees.  Two little girls and a young boy venture out into the cool spring air.  They have a package, and are all trying to open it at once.

       Opening the package the children found a glass.  It had a light blue handle to hold it.

       “Oh, I know! That is the glass that makes little things look big,” said Cathleen.  “It’s a magnifying glass.  Here is a note tied to the magnifying glass.  It says:  “Use me to find out all about little six legs.  Who can they be?”

       “Insects!” cried Marjorie, jumping up and down.  “Ants!, Butterflies! Bees! and all the little animals with six legs.  Let’s see who can find some insects first, “ she called as she ran into the yard.

“Look!” cried Bruce.  Here are two ladybird beetles.  See! They have six legs so they are insects. How big that one looks under the glass:  What do you suppose they do?

       “Maybe we will find out, “ said Cathleen.  “Here are some little black ants.  Come and take a peek at them.”

       “This ant is licking her foot, and washing her face just like the pussy cat does.  How clean she keeps herself!” cried Marjorie.

       “We always name our pet animals.  Let us give the ant a name too.  Tidy would be a good name”, said Cathleen.  They all agreed that it was just the name for the little ant.  By this time Tidy Black Ant had walked way down the path.  The kids watched closely as she walked along on her six legs.  She seemed to be in a hurry now.

       “Tidy must be going to meet this little ant.  Let’s take a look at her through the glass too.  Why, those things on the back of each leg are real little combs, “cried Cathleen.  “See, this ant is combing the hair on her stomach.”

       “She looks like our dog scratching herself”, laughed Bruce.

       “So she does”, laughed the girls.  “She should have a name too. She is working so hard, Busy would be a good name.”

       Bruce thought it would be a good name, too. While the children were talking, the ants, Busy and Tidy, had walked from under the glass on their funny six legs.

       “Now that we have named the ants Busy and Tidy, how are we going to tell them from all the other little black ants?” asked Marjorie.

       “Don’t you remember that we have some paint just to mark insects with?” said Cathleen.

       “That is right.  I will get the paint and we will try to use it”, said Bruce.

       Before you could skip a wink, Busy Black Ant had a bright red spot on her back. And Tidy Black Ant had a bright yellow spot on her back.

       “Now, what fun we are going to have watching when we get outside.  We will always know our ants, for Busy has the red spot on her back and Tidy has the yellow spot on her back.

       “How queer it is.  Even insects, such little animals, wash their faces and comb their hair.  We will all be very quiet now and watch where Busy and Tidy Black Ant go and what they do,” said the girls.

       “SHH! Shh!” whispered Bruce, “Maybe we can find out how they talk and what they talk about.”

       The two little ants were at the anthill with their sisters now.  Busy Black Ant ran to each of the other little ants and touched feelers with it.  They all began to march off in a line.

       “I bet that is the way they talk to each other.  They touch feelers with each other!”, cried Bruce, forgetting to be quiet.  “See, Busy is telling the last ant now.”

       The touch said “Parade to the meadow.  Time to milk the honey cows.”

       Busy put a drop of alarm phenom (a smell)  on her fellow ants which communicated “Be on the watch.  The farmer is going to let out more lady-bird beetles!”

       Then Busy went back to Tidy who looked very sad.  She communicated this by touching Busy, “I know the farmer must have lady-bird beetles to keep the aphids off the fruit trees and vegetables.  But our aphids do no harm.  We keep our aphid honey cows on the thistle.”

       “But the farmer does not know where we keep our aphid honey cows so we may have to fight the lady-bird beetles, “ communicated Busy Black Ant, by touching Tidy’s front feeler. 

       The march to the meadow was on, each little ant behind the next little ant.  The two girls and the boy wondered what the ant’s cows looked like and what would happen if the lady-bird beetles came.  They did not talk.  They just followed the ants to see what was going to happen.

       “Crash!  Crash! Sounded through the grass jungles.  The grass blades shivered.  Out hurried Mr. Long Horns, the beetle.

       Busy stopped and smelled Mr. Long Horns, searching out an answer to the question “Why do you hurry so, Mr. Long Horns?”  Mr. Long Horns communicated by his alarm smell “I must find a new home.  A boy turned over my stone.  He held me upside down and frightened me.  Be careful he does not step on you.”

       “We are near the thistle where our honey cows are, so the little boy will not step on us.  Goodbye, Mr. Long Horns.” 

Busy went by his sure steps onward toward his goal.

       Tidy touched feelers asking “How did you know he was Mr. Long Horns, the beetle?”

       “Oh, I found out.  I want to know the names of all my cousin insects,” replied Busy Black Ant, touching her back.

Up on the thistle, the ants carefully stroked the honey cows. Licking the sweet juice that came out of the rear end of the aphids.   As they were stroked, the honey cows relaxed, gave the ants sweet yellow honey that came out of their butts.  Each tiny ant drank the honey into a storehouse stomach. They carried it home this way for their brothers and sisters to eat.

All at once there was a big noise.  Busy looked afraid.  She ran up and down the thistle stalk touching feelers and dropping bits of alarm phenoms on the other ants.

       “Be ready! The ladybird beetles are coming! The lady bird beetles are coming!”

       Buzz!  Buzz! Buzzzzzzzzzzz!” 

       Down flew the ladybird beetles.  How the ants did try to fight, and bite the beetles! But the ladybird beetles did not care.  They had such heavy orange coats that they did not even feel one bite.  One by one they ate up the honey cows until they could find no more.  Busy saw Tidy run down the thistle stalk with something in her mouth.  She hurried after her to find out what it was.  The other ants followed, feeling very sad for they had no more honey cows.

       The ants looked here.  They looked there.  But they could not find Tidy Black Ant.  Then Busy looked under a leaf.  There stood Tidy.  In her mouth she very carefully held a honey cow.     

       “The two ants touched feelers. Tidy showed that she had saved a honey cow for the ant colony. This one will have little honey cows. Soon the ant colony will have many honey cows on the thistle again.

Busy walked over to Tidy and by touching feelers with her she said: “I am glad you saved a honey cow.  I did not save any, so I do not want to come home.  I am going away.  I am going to travel through the grass jungles.  I will come back some day and tell you about my travels.”

       “Goodbye,” touched Tidy Black Ant.  “Come back soon Busy Black Ant,” she said by her touch.

       So as Tidy and the other ants went back to the anthill, Busy began her travels in the grass jungles of the meadow, going to visit her cousin insects.

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