Sunday, December 23, 2007

cAnt Escape 'Em

The saga started slowly:

"I just spent 40 minutes watching an ant. No, this does not represent the entertainment limits of country living. I have large ants parading across the room like they’d heard the siren call of “Happy Hour” somewhere under the couch… and after Googling them, I discover that 1) carpenter ants are the kind of guests that rank up there with impecunious college professors (they burrow in, make themselves at home, and never leave if they can help it), and 2) in order to get rid of them effectively, one must find the main nest. This is where the satiated ants wobble back to, probably at 2am which is why I can’t locate the central point. When I start to track them, standing over one like Goliath while he was considering stomping David, they wander around like me in a large mall without a shopping list. Veering this way and that, pulled by unknown sales or tidbits, they tease me by veering close to a wall (is this the Exit?) but then re-covering their old path, like they’d left a glove somewhere. After 40 minutes, I generally reach the end of my patience and stomp it… any ant that is that lost probably would have died of exhaustion before reaching the nest anyway. And then I start all over again with the next ant, which is usually already weaving and dodging across another room’s floor."

However, it got really hairy when I was sitting at the desk, answering email; I’d glance down, and in the middle of the floor, where there were no ants a moment ago, I’d find two! Now, either they had a antian Transporter hooked up, or they used a “Ricochet Rabbit” speed and a “for show” speed, or they were dropping from the sky. And the scary part was: they were dropping from the sky! Not sure what made me look up, but dang if those ants weren’t hobbling between the grooves of the beadboard, and then -- in a moment of distraction, plummeting to the floor! This suggests penthouse accomodations, ie: my attic. So I wasted no time in getting the exterminators out. Finesse be damned -- we need the Marines!

The guy showed up on time and nodded thoughtfully as I described the various places I had seen them. He pointed out some of the rotted trim boards that would attract them; I told him they were on my list to replace (I didn’t mention how long my list was, but I think he suspected -- he gave me the card of a carpenter friend of his). Then he described the procedure -- drill into the siding just under the lip of the clapboard and puff a borax-like substance into the open spaces, to cover all the entrances and exits. His description of the ants going out for a bit to eat in the evening coincided with what I’d read, so I let him get about it. Didn’t take him long and he said that I’d see more of them for a while, but then much less of them.

He was right - that evening I witnessed “Kraatoa East of Anthill” or “The Last Days of Pompeiiant” -- there were ants of all sizes, winged and not winged, racing or wobbling across the floor. Many were obviously on their last breaths -- I felt like a monster. Some “B” movie producer was missing a great opporuunity for special effects filming (“The Ants that Ate Mudville“). But this ant motel had just gone out of business, taken down its shingle and closed the door. I closed my heart to the unfortunate critters and swept the floors several times a day for the first week. They have now gotten the message (and/or I will open up a wall someday and be inundated with dead ant bodies)… life is now quiet again. I haven’t had the courage to peek into the attics, though.

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