Fire Ant Army

The pond was bathed in the early morning light when suddenly the clearing resounded with a yelp of pain.

"Owww...," cried Ribbit, the frog, and Dazel's pond neighbour as he hopped on one webbed foot at the pond's edge.

"What's the matter," asked Dazel as she waddled over to him in concern, abandoning her breakfast of sunflower seeds.

"Something bit me," he moaned. Dazel hovered over her young frog friend and looked closely at his webbed foot. It was covered in red spots. "It feels like my skin is on fire," Ribbit cringed.

"Let's go to Dr. Owl," Dazel suggested.

"I hate doctors; I'll just cool off in the pond," Ribbit said jumping into the clear water with a loud splash.

Dazel left for school but when she returned that afternoon, three of her other frog neighbours were complaining of fiery bites on their feet.

Dazel was puzzled. "Could it be a disease?" she wondered to herself as she went towards the lake that evening to meet her best friends Din Din and Delma. When she told the tale to her friends they were deep in thought.

"Sounds like an infectious disease; you should get Dr. Owl to come over and examine the frogs. More of the pond community could catch the sickness if it goes unattended," advised Delma wisely.

"The frogs are too stubborn to go to Dr. Owl. I will request the good doctor to come with me," agreed Dazel.

When Dazel reached Dr. Owl's clinic atop a wide, oak tree and explained the matter, the bird agreed to come. "Just wait until I see to these patients," the owl said gesturing with his wing to the queue of animals waiting patiently to see the doctor.

The sun had set by the time Dazel and Dr. Owl reached the pond. It was a night lit by the full moon so the owl could examine the frogs' feet.

"Hmmm...these red spots are definitely bites. It's not an infection," the old owl said. "I will need fireflies to observe them carefully."

Dazel and Swain the swan hurried to request a group of fireflies to come to the pond. Soon, the clearing was aglow with the flicker of the fireflies. In their bright light, the owl saw the frogs' feet but Dazel saw something else.

"Look," she whispered to Swain, pointing to a mound of sand near one of the rocks bordering the pond.

"What is it?" Swain asked her in bewilderment.

"There are some creatures crawling out of it," Dazel hissed.

"They look like ants!" Swain replied. "Ants that bite," Dazel nodded. She hurried over to Dr. Owl and whispered urgently in his ear. The owl glanced around and nodded.

"They're fire ants," he declared softly. The tiny, red ants had now ventured back into their mound but they had taken Dazel's sleep with them.

"You must discuss this matter with Wiz Rooster," Dr. Owl said as he departed from the pond after giving the frogs a soothing mint ointment for their bites.

"Fire ants have a bad reputation and if they decide to take over the pond, all of you will have to leave the area."

Dazel set off for Wiz Rooster's home near the Aviary School at once. It was late and the old bird was preparing to retire for the night. Dazel was out of breath but finally managed to tell the story to Wiz Rooster.

"I don't know when they settled at the pond. Ribbit and his family were bitten this morning so it has to be recent," said Dazel. "Dr. Owl was saying that the fire ants have a bad reputation..."

Wiz Rooster had listened to Dazel attentively. "Well," he finally spoke, "When fire ants bite, one experiences a painful sting; it feels like your skin is on fire. Once the ants get a grip, they sting from the abdomen and inject toxic venom. Fire ants are more aggressive than most native species and so have pushed many species away from their local habitat," he finished.

"What will we do? I can't even think about leaving our pond home!" cried Dazel flapping his bright wings in exasperation.

"We will talk to the queen," the rooster said calmly.

"The queen?" Dazel gaped.

"The queen ant," the rooster said. "She's the only one they'll listen to."

The next morning, Dazel awoke at the pond after a restless night. Wiz Rooster joined her just as the early morning sun warmed the pond water. The rooster fluttered towards the ant hill and cleared his throat.

"We would like to meet with the queen ant," he announced loudly and clearly.

The frogs and the other insects of the pond gazed at the rooster wonder¬ing what he was doing. A tiny ant climbed out of the hill. He looked up at the rooster and said, "The queen doesn't leave the hill."

"But it's important for me to speak to her," Wiz Rooster replied politely but persistently. The ant went back inside and after a few long minutes of bated breath, a large red ant crawled out slowly accompanied by a host of other tiny red ants.

"Yes, Wiz Rooster," the ant declared in a regal voice.

"Your Highness, I am honoured," Wiz Rooster bowed courteously. "I know you never leave the hill, but it was critical to speak to you. But, how do you know my name?"

"I know everything. My tiny scout ants bring me all news worth having," she said with a flourish.

"Your tiny ants have been biting the inhabitants of this pond, your Highness," Wiz continued smoothly. "We are sure that it's by mistake."

"We only bite when we feel threat¬ened," replied the queen. "The frogs have been stepping on our ant hill. That's why they were bitten."

"The pond inhabitants did not know you had made your home here, your Highness," Wiz Rooster replied. "If they had known they would have been mindful. We live here in peace and tolerance your Highness."

"Perhaps we can chalk out a territory for the ants as the pond is a busy spot. There are many inhabitants here and we would not want anyone to step on the ant hill again," the rooster continued.

"Where do you suggest?" the queen declared after a moment of thoughtful silence.

"How about near that boundary of boulders on the eastern side of the pond," replied the rooster with a smile. "Making an ant hill is a tedious task!" huffed the queen with a frown.

"I do understand and apologize for the inconvenience," said Wiz Rooster.

"If we must! Give us two days," the queen commanded.

"Certainly, your Highness!" Wiz Rooster announced bowing courteously. After the queen and her army of ants had retired into the ant hill, the creatures of the pond swarmed around Wiz Rooster.

"Thank you, Sir," Dazel gushed.

"I cannot believe the way you handled the queen!" exclaimed Swain.

"We are indebted to you for saving our home," whispered Grandfather Frog.

"Please, do not thank me!" Wiz Rooster declared. "Remember my dear friends, a lot can be resolved by courteous words!"

The Adventures of D'Land
Animated Series

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