Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Ants Are Back


It's spring! You can tell. The cable company has popped up with their springtime for-no-particular-reason five-dollar rate hike. It seemed to come so soon after the Ides of March why-the-hell-not five-dollar rate hike, and the Presidents' Day because-we-can five-dollar rate hike, but that's spring for you: bam, suddenly there it is. Also, the ants are back. The ants come back every spring.

For most of the year we don't pay ants any mind, but that doesn't mean we're not important to them. For the ants, the inside of our house is Capistrano. One day, right around the same time every year, they just show up, all of them. You never see all of them at once, but they're there. What you see is just some little movement out of the periphery of your vision, like some random little astigmatism, and then it resolves itself into a batch of ants. This year they were all over the kitchen sink and cutting board. I'm pretty low-tech about ants. I mash-and-wipe with a hot sponge, repeating as necessary. I try to get to them before Dave does, because he loses his mind around insects. It's a good thing we live in Oregon, where we fling open our windows all summer without putting in screens. If he lived in Africa, or Florida, or really anywhere on the east coast, he'd flat perish from the willies.

If Dave sees the ants first, he will apply some sort of spray insecticide to the thickness of a paste all over. The ants will drown long before they have an opportunity to succumb to malathion poisoning. I hate this, but I've learned to accept that he cannot help himself. Since, every spring, he also gets a notion to clean all the windows in the house inside and out, I'm willing to overlook some of his other issues.

The thing is, I may be onto the ants before he is, but I never seem to get the big picture right away. I'll be mashing and wiping ants in about the same location for two, three days, and then on the fourth day I'll notice that they seem to be coming in from a little distance away, and I'll follow them backwards with the sponge, and eventually I'll look up and there will be a major vertical column of ants going up the wall, enough to make the walls look slimmer. The ant stripe is visible from the next room if you happen to be looking at the right spot, so it's hard to imagine how I had missed them before. It's as though you see something shiny, and you think, hmm: that almost looks like a claw, only way larger, and then you look up and discover you're crouching at the foot of a tyrannosaur. The ants have obviously been there all along, and you can trace them to a little bloop of raspberry jam on the second shelf of the cabinet. You can tidy that up and wipe down the ants and in any case they'd have been gone in another week, but it's still a heck of an operation they're running. No doubt one scout ant located the stash and alerted the whole platoon.

It's impressive. You can't even get ten humans in a sushi bar to figure out how to split the check.

13 comments:

  1. UNCLE!!!!!!!! by the way if you wipe or spray with vinegar (non-toxic) on the ant trails it eliminates the scent (pheromone) tracks and the ants cannot find the food source or the way back to the nest

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  2. Peppermint Essential Oil (the real stuff) works on ant and aphids, and all sorts of insects. Just put a few drops in a spray bottle with water. Shake well and often, and spray trails, and if you find where they are entering, you can put some stronger Peppermint Oil there. Don't use POISON for Pete's sake! You can spray the Peppermint solution on the ants, turn the sprayer and spray some in your mouth for fresher breath, too. Freaks out the company.

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  3. Rosemary LombardMay 30, 2009 at 7:45 PM

    Or wipe with soapy water on the trail--same principle--especially if you can get to the scouts before the masses slim the wall. And, shh, ya gotta take that malathion away from Dave. Hide it in your theoretical skirts and slink away to toxic disposal. That's old-style toxic. The kind to use isn't so strong that it kills them so fast that they can't get back to the nest and share. (Sharing is good.)Unfortunately, low toxicity (like Terro Ant Killer II Liquid Ant Baits in animal-proof little plastic bait boxes) means it's slow to get rid of the nest, so send Dave on a vacation to some nice southern place with big cockroaches. When he comes back, ants won't be such a big deal.

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  4. Thanks all! No need to fret. Our ant spray is quite antique by now, and Dave has recently discovered Windex works quite as well. Does that have vinegar? If I sent Dave to a southern vacation with big cockroaches, it would be either him or them, and I think we all know how that would turn out.

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  5. Rosemary LombardMay 30, 2009 at 9:44 PM

    If Dave has to get rid of the ants he sees, a water spray with a little dishwater soap does the job, too, though it can be slippery; wipe it up, along with the dead ants. Even better: the vacuum cleaner. The dust inside it fills up their little spiracles and trachea so they can't get any oxygen. Bye bye.

    Of course, that doesn't solve the nest issue. That requires the fortitude to let the ants eat away and carry the bait back for that lovely last supper at home. If they don't like what you're serving, it means they're off sweets for the moment, and you need a bait to switch with a different attractant. Ants get bored with the same dinners for the whole season, except maybe what dripped into the cupboard.

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  6. Oh how I feel your pain. We've had our share of bloggable ant episodes last spring (http://navausa.blogspot.com/2008/02/got-ants.html). They haven't come back. Not yet...

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  7. This brought back the memories... Some years ago, we returned from a weekend away in October to find tiny ants taking refuge in our house from the first rain. They were coming in the kitchen window, so we got some of those little bait dealies and put them on the counter near the window. I swear, Cecil B. DeMille would have turned green with envy at the massive numbers of ants that mobilized to transport the deathly syrup back to the nest. It must have been one heck of a colony because they were sucking down that stuff for weeks with no apparent letup in number of recruits. Even though we moved the bait outside, the ants continued to come in and even began trolling other rooms in search of who knows what. Preserving our sanity finally took precedence over green tactics and we had someone spray the foundation.

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  8. Ants are our helpers. What you leave out they pick up. Kind of like tiny moms.

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  9. Tiny, thin moms that smell like formic acid.

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  10. Tiny, thin moms that smell like formic acid.

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  11. Thanks all! No need to fret. Our ant spray is quite antique by now, and Dave has recently discovered Windex works quite as well. Does that have vinegar? If I sent Dave to a southern vacation with big cockroaches, it would be either him or them, and I think we all know how that would turn out.

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  12. Oh how I feel your pain. We've had our share of bloggable ant episodes last spring (http://navausa.blogspot.com/2008/02/got-ants.html). They haven't come back. Not yet...

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  13. Ants are our helpers. What you leave out they pick up. Kind of like tiny moms.

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