Once upon a lovely spring day, a young grasshopper was frolicking in a meadow when he happened to meet a pretty young ant out on a scouting mission.
“Hello, dear lady.” Said the grasshopper. “Will you walk with me awhile?”
The ant considered and said, “Alright sir. I will walk with you, but I must work while I walk. I have been sent by my queen to scout out the area to see what plants are growing this spring and what new creatures have moved in.”
“Why are you doing that?” Asked the grasshopper.
“It is important for us to know where to find food. So every spring our Queen sends many of us out to mark food sources. It’s also important that we know about things that can hurt us so we have to look for those too.”
“That sounds exciting.” Said the grasshopper. “I will help you.”
So the grasshopper and the ant walked for a while and the ant carefully marked every food source she found so that other ants could find it again. The grasshopper bounded here and there and was soon distracted and wandered away, but the ant kept on until she had done her job, then she went back to the place where she had found a dried up crabapple from last year, brown but still quite sweet. She looked around for someone to share it with but the grasshopper was nowhere to be seen. So she ate her fill and took some home to her sisters.
Sometime later the grasshopper was frolicking in that self same meadow and came upon his friend the ant walking up a tree!
“Oh dear lady, I see that you are nearly as agile as myself. Come and play with me and we will have a wonderful time.”
“I’m sorry friend grasshopper,”replied the ant.” Today it is my turn to herd the aphids.”
“Herding aphids?” The grasshopper was astonished. “Aphids don’t do anything but sit on leaves and suck.”
“Yes.” Said the ant, “And they also make honeydew, which is delicious. We herd them from plant to plant and keep them safe because they are not quick or clever enough to do it themselves.”
“That sounds like hard work. Why would you work so hard for such boring dumb creatures?” The grasshopper scoffed.
“I told you. Honeydew is delicious. All good things are worth working for.”
“Oh come on, the butterflies tell me the nectar is sweet in the monarda today. You can play with your aphids later.”
“I daren’t.” Insisted the ant, “For a ladybug or a wasp could come by and eat the aphids if they aren’t watched and then our supply of honeydew would be lost.”
“Well, if you insist on working, I’ll come with you.”
So the grasshopper followed along and chatted away as the ant herded the aphids onto fresh leaves and stood watch against the wasps and ladybugs who like to eat them, but soon the grasshopper grew bored and wandered away. As the day drew to a close the ant milked the aphids of honeydew and looked around for someone to share it with, but the grasshopper was nowhere to be seen. She drank her fill and took the rest home to her sisters.
Some time later the grasshopper was wandering along a hedgerow and he came upon an ant hill and who should walk out of it holding a huge pebble over her head but his friend the ant.
“Hello lovely lady! Fancy meeting you here!” Called the grasshopper.
“I live here.” Said the ant placing the pebble carefully on a pile “and you should be careful because not everyone here is as friendly as me.”
“What are you doing?” Asked the grasshopper.
“I am helping the colony build a new storeroom. We have grown this year and need more room to store food for the winter.” The ant explained.
“Wow. That sounds like hard work. Why don’t you come and play with me instead?”
“I’m afraid I can’t play with you today.” said the ant, “This is a very important job.”
“Can’t someone else do it?” Asked the grasshopper. “There are so many in your colony.”
“Many hands make light work.” Said the ant and disappeared back into her hole only to return a short while later with another pebble.
“There” said the grasshopper, “You’ve hauled plenty for today. You can finish your work tomorrow.”
“No” Said the ant, “Tomorrow we must begin filling the storeroom, for autumn is upon us and winter is coming and we must hurry. If you come back later, I will play with you then.” And she disappeared into her hole once more. The grasshopper shrugged and hopped away.
Sometime later the ant hauled the last pebble out of the hole and then climbed to the top of a primrose that was growing nearbye to watch the sunset. It was so beautiful she wanted someone to share it with. The grasshopper was nowhere to be seen so she called to her sisters who soon joined her.
The days were growing shorter and the air was crisp when the grasshopper saw the ant again. She was carrying a large seed over her head and walking quickly along a trail.
“Hallooo Ms ant!” called the grasshopper, hurrying to catch up with her.
“Hello friend grasshopper. What can I do for you today?” She said, not slowing her step, a bit out of breath.
“Well I just thought that you might like to accompany me on a picnic.” Said the grasshopper.
“That sounds lovely.” Said the ant. “But I am gathering food for the winter right now. When the storeroom is quite full, I would be happy to accompany you.”
“Ah but the sun is shining right now. You should come with me.”
“I don’t dare.” Said the ant. “The storeroom will soon be full and we can play then.”
“But I want to play now.” Whined the grasshopper.
“If you help, the work will go quicker. I bet a large insect such as yourself can carry a rather large load.” The ant suggested.
“Alright, I’ll help you.” Said the grasshopper and he followed the ant for a little way but soon became bored and wandered off.
As the day drew to a close the ant selected some tasty morsels from the food she’d collected that day and, since the grasshopper was nowhere to be seen, invited several of her sisters to join her for a picnic. After they ate they had fun playing before they went home to sleep.
Soon after the air grew chilly. The morning saw blades of grass frosted with silver and the skies were gray most of the day. The ants spent most of their time cozy inside the anthill playing games and telling stories and snacking seeds and dried fruit and drinking honeydew.
One day the grasshopper came to the ant hill and called out to his friend. “Hallooo Miss Ant! Will you please come out?”
The ant came out and said, “Hello grasshopper, have you come to play?”
“Oh who can think of playing at a time like this!” he exclamed, “All of the grass has gotten hard and dry and I am so hungry and cold. This morning I was frozen so stiff I couldn’t move till nearly noon!”
“I can give you some food, but I’m afraid you can’t fit inside my anthill. Don’t you have a home of your own?” Asked the ant.
“No.” Said the grasshopper. “I never needed one before. It was always so lovely to sleep under the sky.”
“Don’t you have any other friends you can stay with?” Asked the ant.
“No!” Said the grasshopper, “The butterflies all flew south and everyone else is hibernating.”
“Well,” Said the ant. “Maybe you should fly south, or hibernate.”
“I can’t! Oh I can’t travel that far. I would get tired. And all of the good hibernating spots are taken.” Whined the grasshopper.
The ant didn’t know what else to do, so she gave him some food and sent him on his way and she never saw the grasshopper again but she thought of him often and told his story the the little ones whenever it was her turn to care for the larvae and so he and his folly is remembered to this day.