animal warfare

For the past two days I have been fighting an all-out war against an ant militia that recently decided to take up residence in my bathroom. And so far, I am losing.

I have employed various combat strategies – from aerial assaults with Formula 409 spray to constructing makeshift barriers to block reinforcements. I have used good old fashioned brute force by trying to trample the little bastards to death. I have even resorted to psychological tactics, leaving behind their shriveled black carcasses as a message to the next wave of attackers. But still they persist.

I first noticed them Saturday evening when my new significant other and I were settling in for a quiet evening inside filled with reading and cuddling while listening to the sound of the pouring rain outside. However, our romantic plans were foiled when I saw a stream of tiny black ants racing along the bathtub. How dare they come into my home! My home! I immediately called for backup. I spent the rest of the evening making short trips to bathroom to kill off would be attackers.

Now I don’t care about ants outside. I am frightened of spiders and disgusted by food mites. But ants? I typically avoid stepping on them if I can. I admire their ability to work as a team and put the colony first. I tend to leave them be. But the moment they break the longstanding code that exists between the human-insect world, they are toast. Or so I thought.

I have such an advantage: access to poison, opposable thumbs, sheer size, the Internet. But they have 120 million years of evolution on their side. After my first three methods of eradicating the little bastards failed, I finally went online to see what I could find out. What I have learned is that I am screwed.

First of all, ants communicate through pheromones. So my attempt to crush the little bastards to death only caused a frenzy among the survivors, who then called for more attackers. Damn! Also, the breed I am dealing with typically has more than one queen ant making the nest really hard to destroy since most poisons are designed to kill colonies with just one queen.

A Stanford study I pulled up from 2001 explained how the Argentine ant typically invades Bay Area homes during periods of drought or rain to escape flooding. They have no natural predators. In search of higher ground they make their way into houses along tiny holes in the foundation and travel along the pipes. (This explains how they got into the bathroom.) Use of pesticides does not deter them. And the infestation has nothing to do with food scraps.

Participants in the study used a variety of pesticides, sprays (409 included, Raid, etc), pest bait. And none worked. The scientists recommendation: use Windex to erase ant trails and try to plug the gaps. But these are measures I have already tried!

The way I see it, I have two options: continue fighting the good fight and hope that the ground dries out soon. Or, I call the significant other and tell him to prepare to have a house guest for awhile.


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