Sunday, May 02, 2010

consider the ways of the ant


They were everywhere in Mexico.

If I left a tortilla flake or drop of juice on the kitchen counter, I would find ants within minutes.

Tiny ants.  Almost microscopic.  Virtually transparent.  And faster than Speedy Gonzalez.  (If we can say such things any more.  But I just did.)

I really did not mind them.  They were performing a service -- God's little maids.  And, for that, they were welcome -- in their poltergeist way.

Not all ants were that welcome.  During my late evening reading hours (what most people call night), I noticed large solitary ants cruising across my living room floor -- attracted from outside, I supposed.

When I say large, I do not mean carpenter ant or flying termite large.  More like an earwig.

I do not mind sharing my living space with non-biting, non-stinging wildlife.  But something was not right with these ants.  They had the same neurotic motions that Peter Lorre utilized in creating his characters.

They were scouts for the much-hated leaf cutter ants.  Front women (because all worker ants are female) for those relentless lines of ants that can strip a hibiscus bush of foliage in an hour.  If I saw a scout, I could always find the Agent Orange team not far behind.

Ants in Oregon are benign compared to their Mexican cousins.  They are everywhere.  But they tend to enjoy the outdoors -- as all Oregonians should.

Occasionally, I will find a line of ants enjoying water from the sink in the upstairs bathroom.  Looking like wildebeest on the Kalahari.

But Antworld and Steveworld intersect at my house's most sacred spot -- the hot tub.

Not that the ants share my sybaritic tastes.  The rim of the hot tub simply provides ant condominium convenience for raising young.

This time of year, I will usually find a small pile of ant larvae -- protected by an equally small group of ants.  They can clean off their young within ten minutes.

Saturday was no different.  Except the larvae pile was huge (three separate nurseries) with lots of ants.

The moment we raised the cover, the ants began the evacuation. 

What looked liked chaos was quite orderly.  Each ant performed her task efficiently and with alacrity.  I chuckled at the thought of humans attempting to do the same chore.  Of course, we are intelligent enough to not leave our young sitting on the edge of hot tubs.

Within a half hour, the eggs were gone.  The eggs were gone.  All that remained were the dead.  The formicidal equivalent of Shilo.

And, of course, those same larvae will soon be visiting my hot tub rim as the ant cycle continues.



Theresa in Mèrida said...

"Of course, we are intelligent enough to not leave our young sitting on the edge of hot tubs."

Steve you are an optimist.


Chrissy y Keith said...

this makes me itch. I had to jump in the pool to escape some fire ants one time. They had crawled up to my knees while I has watering some plant. I didnt notice a thing until the command for all of them to bite at the same time was given. I jumped in the water and frantically tried to wash them off, but they continued to bite even under water. I missed a day of work as I was in a great deal of pain and a bit freaked out. I took a few doses of Benadryl to keep the swelling down. Sorry Steve, all ants now are dead ants in my yard.

Anonymous said...

I feel the same about nonstinging/nonbiting insects...but spiders still give me the willies. A childhood fear I never got over. I realize they have a place in the balance of nature. They commandeer my boat during the night. So, I'm mostly a day boater/fisherman.

Anonymous said...

A customs officer found an infestion of LARGE ants in the spare tire compartment of my vehicle. I thought that I might be in some type of trouble...but after a few minutes he replaced the tire, and I was free to leave.


Steve Cotton said...

Theresa -- Well, at least no one has left a baby on my hot tub rim -- so far.

Chrissy -- I love ants. But I suspect the exterminator would be on his way if I found fire ants in the yard.

Francisco -- Spiders have always fascinated me. But I admit I have had several startle rsponses (caused by spiders) in Mexico.

Andrés -- Nothing like getting busted for smuggling ants. I wonder if the ants were taken into custody.