Thrift is big today. The economy has everybody cutting back. Frugality is the new black.
Nature follows no fashion and is soundly against waste. Squander is out of the question. The natural world has but one rule: eat and be eaten.
Some creatures have a reputation for industry. The ant, for example, is thought of as diligent and thrifty. Aesop is largely responsible for portraying ants as sober, methodical workers who think ahead, while crickets are depicted as the Neros of the animal kingdon, merrily fiddling away as Rome burns.
Really, some ants are pretty feckless. In a carpenter ant colony the queen is the only one with any moxie. Courtiers bring food and care for her every need. The nest quivers with activity. Everybody does his job.
Yet if something befalls her, the whole setup falls apart. The ants lose purpose, wander off and die. Over about a month the structure disintegrates. They can’t even get it together to organize some looting. All that saving and caretaking just goes right down the drain. So much for thrifty ways. I’d rather be a cricket.
Now bees, that’s another story. All the
business columns with fashionable articles about economy could take a page from the bee book. The mantra is “don’t waste”. In addition to honey, bees gather and use other things. Pollen is food. The comb is built with wax secreted from the stomach. Tree sap becomes glue and insulation. And the storage! Survivalists take note: a bee hive will often put away three to four times what it needs to last the winter.
The charming thrift of the flying squirrel deserves mention. This dreamy-eyed, nocturnal charmer is more of a glider than an actual flyer. It lives communally except when rearing young, when they separate into maternal groups. They aren’t fussy eaters, anything is fair game. Whatever is plentiful will please them.
Nests made of grass, lichen and shredded bark are often a reused cavity left by a woodpecker. When cavities are scarce, they make do with leaf nests or recycle an old crow or ground squirrel nest. Human attics are cozy alternatives, too.
When frigid whether confines them to quarters, they do the sensible thing. Having built well with tasty materials, they nibble on the nest until things improve.
A lesson to us all.
See you on the trails,
Diane Tucker, Estate Naturalist