Saturday, October 15, 2005


I have an ant problem. It’s been going on for a while now, but then I haven’t really been proactive in trying to eliminate it. In part, I think my recalcitrance is due to a lack of belief that ants are harmful. I once expressed my lack of alarm about ants to a friend who promptly assured me they were carriers of disease. I was surprised, but have never really researched for myself whether they are harbingers of pestilence. The local council has conducted education campaigns warning citizens about the need to report any sightings of fire ants so they can be eradicated, but the ants taking up residence in my abode are of the black garden variety. I did spray around my garbage bin with a can of Raid, which seemed to discourage them from gathering in that location, but perhaps a rarely used six-year old insecticide doesn’t retain its potency for so long. I also tried dribbling some Ant-Rid in strategic locations, but again there were problems with its effectiveness. I don’t think an ant has been fooled by Ant-Rid since not long after its release onto the market. And the manufacturers assume that the ants will be walking along a distinctive trail, which is not the case with my home-ants. On the whole, the ants in my kitchen are individualist, meandering types. There is some evidence of co-operation along the back of the sink, but on the kitchen bench and on the couch, they’re out scouting by themselves. Sometimes they gather on an abandoned juice glass as if at a local watering hole. Other times I see single ants struggling with crumbs twice their size. Today a few of them took advantage of the raspberry oat bran muffins cooling on the bench (I hope they burnt their mouths on the raspberries). I know when spiders come into the house, there are all sorts of theories proffered about such behaviour. Apparently it’s something to do with the rain; either they’re trying to escape it or they’re looking for water because it hasn’t rained for a long time. The ants arrived in my kitchen long before it finally began to rain, so perhaps there’s something in the latter theory, especially since they’re main residence near the taps. But do they even drink water? Don’t they get it from the things they eat? Perhaps some research on insects is in order to satisfy my curiosity...

Preliminary findings: Ants in Australia are generally more annoying than harmful. Adult ants only consume liquid food; the solid food the workers collect is for the larvae. Ants are tricky to eliminate. A lot of investigative work--the ants might call it stalking--seems to be required to locate nests.

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