Friday, May 20, 2011

Neither Snow Nor Rain Nor - Ants?

I went out to my mailbox this afternoon to post a letter. This doesn't happen terribly often in the day and age of online bill paying, Paypal, e-mail, text messaging and Facebook. Just about any information or money that needs to get to someone can be accomplished electronically. A few exceptions force me to address an envelope, dig out a stamp, and make the trek to the old mailbox (ours is not right in front of our house but around the corner with a row of others in no particular numerical order).

When I opened my mailbox (which I haven't visited in weeks since my kids retrieve incoming mail), I was greeted with a small, seething colony of tiny black ants. UGHH! They were busily moving plump white eggs into the back corner of the mailbox. I guess the recent rain disrupted their nest and sent them looking for higher ground. It must have happened today sometime since my daughter, who typically picks up the mail on her way from the bus stop, did not fly in the door yesterday screaming hysterically about ants.

We are no strangers to ants in this house. It's the one recurring pest that we've dealt with since immediately after buying it. Just after signing our lives away on a mortgage, I discovered a swarm of winged insects along the side of the house emerging from a hole in the ground. My first panicked fear was termites. We were aware when we bought this circa 1959 Cape house that it showed signs of prior termite treatment, but the inspector saw no recent or current damage.

I grabbed one of the critters and headed for the repository of all knowledge, right and wrong - the Internet - to determine if this was a termite or an ant. It turned out to be an ant (something to do with the ratio of wing to abdomen length - more than I ever wanted to know). They swarm like termites to expand their colonies, some of them sprouting wings to boldly invade new locations.  I knew carpenter ants could be as destructive as termites, but these did not appear to be that variety. I breathed a little easier. Our new home, and biggest investment of our lives, was not being devoured by insects.

Well, we have continued to have ant problems over the years and have simply come to live with it. Economy Pest Control comes yearly to do their thing, but they are no match for the ants. Short of laying waste to our entire property with an arsenal of toxins, who is? They show up in different places in different ways, usually when the spring rains come. We had the odd fall swarm one year that managed to infiltrate our basement, but it wasn't a big swarm and just a few of them worked their way into the house. The dog food bowls are a favorite destination, and every now and again, they find their way to the kitchen. These are few and far between but always a freak-out instigator. How dare Mother Nature try to send her little minions into our pristine fortress! I suppose if it were pristine, the ants wouldn't come...

The mailbox was a new one on me. I ran back to the house and grabbed the ant spray and a towel. These were effective enough at clearing them out. I felt a moment of guilt as I watched the little guys running for their lives with their precious eggs, but I just really don't know a humane way to eradicate ants. They chose poorly when they selected my mailbox for a refuge. The mailman will probably wonder what that chemical smell is coming from it, but at least he won't encounter a nest of ants. If not for my kids' soccer camp registration only accepting checks, it would have been a different story.

What other pests do you Capers contend with (no, I don't want to hear about your annoying neighbors and kids)? I suspect termites must be out there plotting against us in the community. I see evidence of rodents chewing items we have stored in our garage, although I've never seen a mouse. I've encountered the odd roach, but nothing to compare with the numbers or sizes they see in the Deep South. Carpenter bees have bored into our deck here and there but never done enough damage to worry us. The Cape is spared from the worst of the deer population thanks to our watery borders. And then there are the stink bugs. Don't even get me started.  You can see how I feel about them in my post from last fall:

Enough With the Stink Bugs!

Ah well, if the world is really going to end tomorrow, it won't matter anyway. We will be gone, and the pests will remain behind to finally have the world to themselves. Perhaps Matthew's beatitude should have read "Blessed are the eek!:  for they shall inherit the Earth"...

"Ants" by Bob Berman, Helium poetry

Ants crawling along the wall
Like little soldiers marching off to war
Traveling one after another until they reach their destination
They are smashed
By me,
I don't like ants.

And a link to an all time great kids song about ants (careful, the music plays automatically):

The Ants go Marching

Oh, and your kids might get a kick out of this link. You can create a "lemonade" drawing on the computer screen and then "call" the ants. They invade the screen and descend on your drawing. I kind of enjoyed it myself.

UpToTen - Boowa and Kwala : Lemonade Ant Art

Share with me any other favorite ant art, songs, tales, or poetry.

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