It’s ant season right now, or so I’m told. I believe it. The ant status in my kitchen reminds me of black flies in the Muskokas in an unseasonably cool and wet May. Ubiquitous. Unbearable. And one discovers them, or their handiwork, in the most surprising of places.
My dog normally eats like a cat but now, because it is ant season, she is offered food for precisely 2 minutes and 30 seconds and if she doesn’t want it within that amount of time, a tight lid is returned to the container it is in and it is put in the freezer, the only ant-free zone I seem to be able to find in my house, for another few hours until she decides she will deign to eat.
One day last week after a tiring day in the barn I sat down at my desk and cracked open a bag of chips to relax for a minute before entering the ant-zone (my kitchen). Munching somewhat happily away (chips aren’t that great in East Africa – a bit soggy and the oil tastes a bit funny but hey- I was really hungry and not ready to cook) with the bag in my lap, I absent-mindedly brushed an ant off my arm, and another, and another. You guessed it. Looking down at the bag I could see the chips at the bottom of the bag were laden with ants, hundreds of them, scurrying around quite happily, having infiltrated the bag through the tiniest of holes in the bottom (I assume so anyway, since the chip bag appeared to my poor human eyes be unopened). ARGHHHHHH. Then I noticed my lap and my pants also had teeny-tiny ants swarming around on them. ARGHHHHHHHHH.
A volunteer was here for a few weeks giving me a hand with the pig-feeding trial and when the ants first appeared she likened my approach to that of an old man waging a battle with squirrels he is trying to keep away from his bird feeder. Well, I come by it honestly since my grandpa used to build intricate, albeit unwieldy devices all over his maple trees to try to keep the squirrels out of his bird feeders so his beloved cardinals, and sparrows, and starlings could come and eat. He won a few battles but never the war. I feel your pain Gramps.
You have to understand this isn’t just one or two ants wandering across the floor or hiding under the un-washed coffee cup I left in the sink after breakfast. These are teams, battalions, armies of tiny tiny black ants that swarm on anything that has food on it and they also send out scouts that move in singles or teams or 20s across the stove, the kitchen table, the sponge for dishwashing, my wooden spoons, my pot lids, my dish drain, my firmly closed garbage can, the inside of my fridge, my couch, my bathroom floor. You get the point. They don’t quit! Even when I light the gas stove they are undeterred and the movement continues. Oh sure they probably lose a few of their co-workers to a fiery death, and a few more die when I douse them with a squirt from the Windex® bottle (which flares up in a delightful way my pyro brothers fyi) but it doesn’t make a dent in the population.
They make my skin crawl, they make me swear, they make me clean and clean and clean, and scratch my head, and buy containers with ever tighter seals, but I am not winning the war. You know that feeling after a weekend of camping having received multiple mosquito bites and even though you are back in your hermetically sealed mosquito-free city home, every itch and prickle of your skin makes you slap yourself because you expect it to be a mosquito and don’t even bother to look? Well my scalp itches all the time because I think there are tiny ants in my hair, and maybe there are, and maybe there aren’t but it doesn’t really matter because there is no hermetically sealed mosquito-free city home for me to go to. I just have to wait for ant season to end.
Oh I bought some horrible smelling ant spray that kills the particular battalion I can see, and I fear harms my lungs and those of my dog, but now I just have a kitchen that smells toxic AND it is full of ants.
Today my co-worker had his morning porridge in my living room and noticed the termite tunnel that was running up the side of my apartment door. I had noticed it last night too but was afraid to unleash a whole new species of ants into the apartment by knocking it down. He said the tunnel had to be removed or they would eat my whole door, so I asked if I should get the ant spray. Chuckling at my innocent, naivete he said ‘They aren’t there in the tunnel. They come from the ground. They have gone up into the ceiling to eat your wood and have maybe gone back into the ground”. Or NOT was what I got out of his comment. ARGHHHHHHHHH. He graciously scraped the termite tunnel off the doorframe with a plastic ruler as I supervised and made encouraging noises from 18 feet away just in case anything started moving. Suddenly I heard the all too familiar gentle non-alarming East African “ahhhh” and knew I had to get the spray. The termites were there, in my doorframe! A lot of them! Handing him the bottle while standing on one toe and leaning waaaaaaaaaay over so I could keep my vital organs as far away from the termites as possible ( I know they eat wood people but you have to understand this ant situation is wearing me down a bit and making be behave a bit irrationally at times) he blasted inside the hollowed out doorframe with toxic fumes then returned to his chair and sipped on his second cup of porridge apparently oblivious to the noxious smell emanating from 16 feet away. “If you see the tunnel start again then you have to scrape it away right away or they will eat your wood again” he said. Oh dear.
Picking at a small grey mud looking clump on my wall I asked if that was the start of a termite tunnel. “Oh no” he chuckled again at my innocent naivete. “That’s the home of a small insect that looks sort of like a, ummmmmm, you know, tiny caterpillar. That’s where they live. Sometimes they live in there or sometimes they come out” he patiently explained as if talking to a 4 year old. ARGHHHHHHHHHHH.
Last night I swear a gecko pooped in my water glass while I was sitting on my couch. ARGHHHHHHHH. I am not even joking. I can not explain what else could have fallen in there. While I support the existence of geckos because I am told they eat insects, I don’t appreciate them pooping in my highly-processed-overpriced bottle water. I really think there is such a thing as too much wildlife and prefer for this to be a dual-species apartment: Human and 1 particular dog only.
With none of the acceptance and philosophical manner of the Ugandans I’ve expressed my displeasure to about this situation, I can truly, honestly say that I hope ant season will end, very soon. And while Brad Pitt may have been happy to let the Tibetans sift the sand to remove all the insects in the ground before building a temple, I can not manage this one in a non-violent way. I’m no Brad Pitt.
But then again, I am reminded of the expression” be careful what you wish for” since after ant season I’m pretty sure comes mosquito season and cockroach season. Mom, don’t let this deter you from visiting. Just bring that Raid® you talked about last night please. A lot of it.