2011.07.07 The ants just keep on coming

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

On Saturday night I was ready to declare victory over the ants.

Wait, I should qualify that. I was ready to declare victory over the medium size brown ants. I never claimed any supremacy over the tiny, tiny browns. And I’m still waiting for the arrival of the large black.

But the medium brown...they really seem to be subsiding, and claimed no greater booty than a few floor crumbs and one broken key on my laptop.

I don’t recall having a lot of trouble in the past with the medium brown ants, but they reign supreme in our house this year. My only comfort is a statement from Gavin at Johnson’s Hardware: “Everyone is having ant problems this year.”

Last year it was the ground moles, this year the ants. I suppose next year it will be the bats. No, I didn’t really think that. Just erase it from your mind. We’re hearing a lot about extreme weather. Perhaps extreme infestations are next.

We started off with household remedies—cinnamon and curry powder, because we couldn’t remember which was supposed to be effective. Colleen read something about garlic, so I sliced up a clove and placed pieces at points of entry. She scoffed and said that she meant an entire clove, not a slice. 

The ants didn’t like something—of course we didn’t take a scientific approach by adding one item at a time—but they only abandoned that point of entry and found another, by the corner of the stove.

I also sprayed ants with vinegar—a horrible acid bath that led to death. At least it quickly killed off the tiny ones, but another invasion would soon arrive.

One morning an amazing supply trail led from a dead moth in the kitchen sink to...maybe a small opening around the edge of the sink.

I finally gave in and bought a container of Terro liquid ant killer. The theory behind its success is that the ants take some poison back to their home and eventually everybody goes down. Chemical warfare at its most insidious.

I placed a big dollop of Terro on a card and the ants loved it. So many of them bellied up to that bar that the card turned dark. I was tempted to toss it into the back yard or just smush them right there, but I let the Terro work. At the hardware store, Adam said to give it a couple of weeks.

Every couple of days I added another drop. Dozens more would come to cash in. It was like they were in a drunk stupor. They never moved. I’d stamp my foot and several would scurry into action, heading back to the nest, I hoped.

This went on day after day and then one night after I was in bed I heard the vacuum in operation downstairs. I learned later that Colleen discovered a new advance of the mediums in the dining room and she sucked them up.

One day I walked over to my computer on the dining room table and spotted an ant on the keyboard. Horrified with what I expected to see, I released the keyboard and lifted. What a relief. Lots of detritus—including some food crumbs, most likely—but no ants.

For several days I would spot an ant on or nearby the computer. Each time I lifted the keyboard and found nothing. Then one day a solitary ant disappeared beneath a key.

I’ve pried keys off the keyboard at work before, so I lifted one up. It’s a totally different kind of keyboard. Now it just sticks up like a loose tooth that’s ready for pulling. Score one for the ants.

I put a card of poison on the dining room floor and studied the movement. It was the same as in the kitchen. I could never spot them on the basement rafters. They just mysteriously disappear.

I’ve thought a lot lately about the magnifying glass I had as a kid. I remember reading about how you could focus the sun’s rays and make a fire. Sure enough. I could burn a pattern into wood (or into my hand if I wasn’t careful). 

One day when I was lying in the front yard burning, an ant crawled onto the piece of wood. I moved the bright spot of light over to it and it immediately burned up. I had to try it a few more times before I decided it was too cruel.

As I said at the top, I was ready to declare victory, but now the mediums may be advancing. The tinys were never conquered. I think they all know about my past.

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