When the Ants Come Marching In

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I’ve never been a lover of bugs. While my brothers remove every insect from our house with a jar and release it into the garden, my version of bug removal involves grabbing whatever shoe happens to be closest to me and screaming “kill it!” a few times. Butterflies, Roly Polys, and Ladybugs are the only lucky exceptions safe from my wrath.

You can only imagine my joy when the tiny black sugar ants decide they are too good for the great outdoors and invade our house once or twice every year. When I was a wee lass, I had an almost paralyzing fear of ants. I blame my Myrmecophobia on my younger brother’s ant farm. He received one of those farms with the blue gel for his birthday one year, and for the next four years he housed various ant species in his bedroom. Owning an ant farm will teach you a lot. Like how ants are the six-legged Houdinis of the bug world and if there is a way in or out of something, they will find it.

Watching ants through a magnifying glass makes one realize that what looks like a tiny black speck from above is actually a hairy abomination that belongs no where but horror movies. Although, the terror is dampened a little once you see how much of a neat-freak ants are. There would be times where I would watch a single ant clean its antenna and every single one of its legs using its mandibles, walk two inches, and then run itself through the clean-cycle all over again.

There was one time when my brother decided to raise large, red ants instead of the still-creepy-but-relatively-harmless sugar ants. My tolerance for ants ended the day he forgot to put the lid back on the ant farm and, well, I’m sure you can imagine what happened from there.

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If I see ants outside, I’m pretty calm. I might chuck a few rocks at their ant hill or (unsuccessfully) try to drown them with the hose a few times, but for the most part, me and ants are chill. The moment an ant crosses the threshold of the house, however, and I declare full-out war.

The problem with declaring war on something you don’t want to touch means that you have to get creative with your battle techniques. When I was younger, this meant arming myself with air-freshener or hairspray. Looking back, I kind of worry about my mental health. Is it natural to enjoy watching ants wander around like drunken sailors after I hit them with a healthy dose of Febreze, gleeful as I watch them curl up in a ball and die? How about cackling madly while I do it? Is that normal or just some latent serial-killer tendencies making themselves known?

Nowadays I’ve become a little more conscious of the price of my murder weapons. Now, I’m content to just get a wad of toilet paper and play a fatal game of whack-a-mole with the line of ants making their way across the counter. And floor. And wall. And toilet.

The problem is, ants can fight back just by sheer numbers. I can eliminate all the ants from the kitchen counter, but the minute I come back from throwing away the corpse-riddled paper towel into the trash, sixty more tiny black demons have taken their place. It’s some exhausting work.

Ants have some ridiculous climbing abilities as well. It doesn’t matter how high up you hide your food, the ants will get to it. There’s times where I’ve been taking a shower and ants have dive-bombed me from the ceiling. I might be bigger than ants, but they almost always have the higher ground.

Ant traps are pointless. Once enough camponotus consobrinus have become trapped, the rest of the ants will walk on top the bodies of their stuck brethren (technically sistren since most worker ants are female) to reach the food. Ants are some cold-hearted creatures.

Usually the battle ends when I finally just give up and learn to coexist with the tiny intruders for a few days until the poisoned food I set out manages to assassinate the queen. Until then, me and the ants are best friends. I’ll eat at the table while they crawl across my feet. I’ll shower while they explore the shower-rail. I’ll read on the couch while they scurry across my arms and squeeze themselves between the pages of my books. I’ll cry myself to sleep out of terror while they raid my kitchen, because my bedroom is the one place in my house that they will not enter.

In the end, although I’ve won the battle, I know that the war is yet to be won. My tiny insect adversaries be back next year, and until then I will be coming up with all new ways to gain the upper hand, even if it’s all in vain.

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