Friday, September 11, 2009


Ants are fascinating creatures. In fact, up close, the average little worker is rather cute. The long waving antennae, her preening cleanliness, the delicate little legs, the stubble dotting her shiny exoskeleton, and on some of the little household ants I have ample experience with, the almost iridescent honey-colored stripes ringing her abdomen lend a touch of class. All in all a docile, pixie-like being, silent and subtle.

As a kid I used to dream of catching a newly mated queen and setting up an ant colony in my room. I remember building one of those flat, rectangular little wood and plastic houses for them, and even once nabbing some larvae and workers beneath these large gray bricks lining our garden. I got up early for a week to stare into the little world I made for them because the moment I was conscious, I'd think to myself, "I wonder what the ants are doing!" and killed any chance of further sleep. Once I captured a winged queen and kept her in a plastic tube with honey and a damp sponge, and she even laid eggs which started to develop into babies. But then she died and my hopes of my very own ant kingdom were crushed. The dream lives on, though. Even now when I imagine a collection of little wiggling ant larvae, I get all excited.


...en masse, roving uncontrolled inside your house, ants are disgusting and horrifying in their relentless, mindless swarming, searching and crawling. Their little marching lines across your carpet, across your desk, across your 19 inch LCD screen while you're trying to watch a movie...yeah, that's going a bit far, you little beasts! Time to get out that EDIBLE DEATH and give your Queen a meal to remember. Or better yet, not remember because she'll be DEAD.

One of my personal heroes, the physicist Richard Feynman (and no, he's not my personal hero because he won the Nobel Prize and is a nerdly stud, but rather because he's brilliant yet down-to-earth, disrespects authority, challenges rules, picks locks and isn't afraid to admit he's wrong, though being a decorated nerd certainly ups his awesome factor) has shared the non-violent way in which he rid his house of ants. He basically ferried them on a piece of paper for hours from one point in their chemical scent path to another point, effectively rerouting their advances without killing a single one. A remarkable feat of science, patience and a noble regard for the ant's life.

Unfortunately for me, I'll never be a nobel laureate, and I have no patience to spare when a relentless army of hunger is marching on my kitchen. Do you know how quickly those little suckers can eat in force? I probably overdid the combination of ant bait and scattered offerings of 20 Mule Team Borax (quite effective as claimed by countless other ant-pestered internet folks), but desperate times call for desperate measures.

I thought they would never go away. They kept wandering around my carpet, climbing around my keyboard, and I never saw one enter the baits, though they did form undulating feeding lines around the molasses and borax mix I spread around the door where they were entering. Eat, my pretties. Eat it all...

Now it's been maybe a month since the poison was first set out. Finally, I'm free from the tickly honor of having several ants wander up my arm while typing at the computer. A lone ant meandered across my desk the other day, but I let her be. I think their leader is dead, so she's safe as the lone survivor. Perhaps the army of darkness will return again in the spring, but for now, I can think happy thoughts about wriggling ant babies without wishing death and doom upon their transparent little heads.

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