Tuesday, January 22, 2008


What is it about the ants here?

I have lived in the tropics where insect life is legion and successfully battled not only ants but two-inch flying cockroaches, five-inch dragon-like centipedes, swift and hairy cane spiders as big as the palm of my hand and nasty, tail-swinging scorpions (this is the part about Hawaii that the travel posters don't mention) but I have never had less success than trying to banish California ants from my home.

One expects to see ant trails in Hawaii, where the ant population is enormous and specialized. There, ants of different sizes and colors show up within minutes depending on whether you have neglected to wipe up protein, breadcrumbs or sugar. Last time we visited Hawaii, we even found a steady stream of harvesters crossing the wall, negotiating the quilt on our bed and diving into a pocket in my purse where I had a single Coldeez lozenge; by the time I discovered them, they had removed half of it without even disturbing the cellophane wrapping.

Their California cousins, however, laid back and somewhat laissez-faire as I find all Californians to be, appear to come in only one size and color, medium size and black. They don't bite, only tickle annoyingly when they fall from the ceiling onto my person - I've even seen one scurrying across My Beloved's spectacles - while he was wearing them! They always show up at the holidays, so my visiting friends and relatives can judge what a great housekeeper I am. They don't appear to come for food, carefully detouring around anything we have left lying around on the counters - paradoxically, they seem to come for water - at the wettest time of the year!

Salvador Dali may have thought ants artistic (this photo is from an exhibit of his), but I don't - ants are my enemy.

However, while I'm not a dyed-in-the-wool environmentalist - I own a car, after all - I do hesitate to poison our house and/or surroundings with substances that will surely kill us from cancer long before they affect the damned ants at all. I have tried orange oil, which gives off a pleasant scent while curling up the little buggers instantly, but it doesn't seem to discourage the rest of the colony from invading my kitchen. I have tried squishing each individual ant and leaving their tiny corpses as a warning to their brethren; undeterred, they carry their fallen away but keep on coming, the gutsy Marines of the insect world.

Finally, one year when the annual ant invasion was particularly strong I was in our neighborhood store, so fed up and angry that I was willing to admit publicly to this problem and seek chemical assistance, the proprietor, a wonderful man named Bob Peckham, said "Well, welcome to our town! Everyone here has ants!"

Oh, thank God. I am not alone.

He recommended that we sprinkle the entrances to our house with two products guaranteed to dissuade even the most tenacious of ants, baby powder and cinnamon. Following his sage advice (after all, he had lived in our town most of his life), I sprinkled cinnamon on the dark-colored surfaces and baby powder on the light colored ones and, magically, the ants decamped for that year! I do have to renew the sprinklings each year or the ants return, but what an improvement over orange oil and swear words!

Thanks, Bob, wherever you are!


Blogger Rev. Biggles said...

Ahh, if it were only that easy. My infestation occurs just before the first rains. They come back to our attic each year, and wait. Wait for us to leave anything out, then they decend from the ceiling and swarm. And by swarm I mean they actually bring queens down and start up a colony in ... say ... our canned goods. Stacks of day to day plates, IN THE STOVE !!! It's always fun to jack the oven to 450 and watch them scurry for safety. The first year we were here, the roof was leaking really badly. So badly the ceiling in the kitchen was saturated. So, with my trusty drill I figured I'd drill a hole for the water to pour through. Nope, what I got was a container full of ants. They fell from the ceiling with audible plops and pleeps.

Called the Ant Death Squad and ever since they've been kept away, for the most part.

Cool, eh?


Tuesday, January 22, 2008  
Blogger cookiecrumb said...

I know personal ant travails.
But I've never known travails like Biggles's.
I think it depends on the house you live in.
I don't have ants. I moved.
I used to have ants.
Good luck, Zoomie.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Biggles, my heart goes out to you.

Cookiecrumb, lucky you to have left your ant buddies behind!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008  

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