Half-Naked Ant-ics

Well, Mom’s admonition to ‘always wear nice underwear, just in case’ has proved (once again) to be good advice.

I used to think it was just silly. Seriously, Mom: What could possibly make me strip off my clothes in public?

(The Fates let out an evil chuckle.)

So.

There I was, out in our front yard on a sunny day, minding my own business. As usual, I was togged out in more clothes than most people wear on an Arctic expedition: Jeans, T-shirt with a long-sleeved shirt open over it, steel-toed work boots, knee pads, work gloves, sunglasses, a broad-brimmed hat, and enough sunscreen to kill a dozen coral reefs. (Note: We don’t have coral reefs in our front yard. No coral reefs were harmed in the making of this blog post.)

I was working on a rotten log, tearing handfuls of squishy wood into the rich mulch that our rhododendrons love. Trying to appease my cranky lumbar vertebrae, I sat on another fallen log.

Anybody who’s spent time around rotten logs can probably see what’s coming; but in my defense, I’ve done this loads of times all over our property and I’ve never had a problem before. But this time, I felt a painful little pinch. In… my armpit?!?

“Okay,” thought I. “Maybe it’s a bit of heat rash, or an errant hair follicle.” I scratched the spot and carried on.

But then there were more pinches. Armpit, shoulder. What the…?

You guessed it: There was an ant colony in my log seat. And a bunch of big black-and-red ants had climbed up the back of my jeans, under the loose long-sleeved shirt, and chowed down on the tender armpit exposed by my short-sleeved T-shirt.

Let’s just say I moved, um… briskly. I yanked off my overshirt, but by then the ants had found their way through my T-shirt arms and down inside my jeans.

So, yeah. I did an extremely graceless striptease in our front yard. The exhibition was made even more alluring by the fact that I couldn’t take off my jeans without first removing my bulky boots, which have long laces that require some effort to pull loose.

So there I was: Head down, ass up, hopping around and whacking at random parts of my half-naked body. The sun’s reflection off all that pasty skin could probably be seen from outer space. (And if that didn’t warn any passing aliens to avoid Earth, nothing will.)

But I guess it could have been worse. At least the neighbours can’t see into our yard, and no cars drove by. (As far as I know.) And I was actually wearing nice underwear, Mom.

Please tell me I’m not the only one who’s flung off my clothes in public…

Book 17 update: My optimistic plan to finish the draft last week was scuttled when I had a reaction to a prescription painkiller and ended up in Urgent Care for a day, then spent the week stoned brainless on heavy-duty antihistamines. Fingers crossed for this week…

Ant-Watching

Last week I acquired a hobby I never wanted, and certainly don’t enjoy: Ant-watching.

It wasn’t my idea. Hubby made me do it.

Ants creep me out, so you can imagine how (not) thrilled I was last year when a platoon of ants infiltrated the second floor of our house. Soon the upstairs was dotted with little corpses where I’d squished them and left the bodies as a warning to others. (It turns out ants are cannibalistic, though; so really I was just leaving welcoming snacks. Yet another reason why ants creep me out.)

Hubby took an entirely different attitude at the time. “Just leave them alone,” he urged. “Watch them and see where they go. That way we can find the nest and get rid of them once and for all.”

There was some logic to that, but it went against every one of my instincts. I argued that we could simply study the distribution of corpses after I squished them, and it would amount to a scatter-graph showing the areas of higher population density.

In the end, I set out some cotton balls soaked in boric acid/honey/water. The ants gorged on the treat and carried it eagerly back to the missus and kids, poisoning the whole nest before succumbing themselves. We haven’t had ants in the house for over a year.

But.

A few days ago, there was another damn ant!

I squished it, of course. When I told Hubby, his response was predictable: “Don’t squish them, watch them!” He even encouraged me to name the next ant, naively hoping that if the invader had a name, I’d become fond enough of him to spare his life. Clearly, Hubby doesn’t realize what a heartless bitch I am.

But I decided to humour him (Hubby, not the ant), at least for a while. So for an hour I watched ‘Antonio’ make brainless circles around the floor. Eventually he found the place where I’d squished his compatriot a couple of days ago. He circled the spot again and again, antennae waving wildly. I had a small pang, wondering if he was grieving for his friend; but then I remembered the whole ‘cannibal’ thing. He was probably just licking up some tasty juices.

Antonio apparently needed a nap after his cannibalistic snack, so he snoozed under the table for forty minutes. I’d had enough, so I called Hubby upstairs to take over. Oddly, he didn’t seem quite so enthusiastic about the chore when he was the one listening to his brain rot while he watched a motionless ant.

Moments after Hubby abandoned ant-watching duty, Antonio got smeared across the floor. Since then I’ve set out my honey saloon and had a few patrons, so I’m hoping this year our ant-ordeal will be shorter. Meanwhile, I’m stopping up every tiny aperture and grimly eyeing a suspicious spot on the east side of the house. As soon as the weather warms up, it’s off with the siding!

But at least ant-watching is off my to-do list. One thing down; three hundred and seventy-six to go…

Book 16 update: I’m on Chapter 38, and Aydan has just discovered that she’s rich beyond her wildest dreams. Unfortunately, she has no idea where the money came from…

Anti-Ant

I was enjoying a quiet cup of tea on our back deck the other day when I felt it:  The distinct sensation of six tiny feet scuttling across my skin.  Sure enough, an ant had decided to traverse my mountainous foot instead of going around it like a sensible creature.

That ant achieved low-earth orbit about a second later.

I’m pretty tolerant of most critters.  Snakes and spiders don’t bother me, and I’m actually quite fond of bats and salamanders.  I think mice and skunks are cute, even though I refuse to let them share my abode.  (But if they’re across the street at the neighbour’s house, I’ll ooh and ahh and take pictures:)

Mom and six baby skunks across the street from us - aren’t they adorable?

Mom and six baby skunks across the street from us – aren’t they adorable?

But ants?  Nope.  That’s where I draw the line.

Ants have no redeeming qualities.  They bite, they eat house walls, they kill gardens, they make giant mounds in the lawn, and they multiply like crazy.  Worst of all, ants are organized.  And they outnumber us a million to one.  That just doesn’t seem like a good ratio if they decide to band together and take over.

I thought I was being overly paranoid with that particular speculation, but even the information pages mention the fearsome prospect of being conquered by giant mutated ants and their brutal slave-driving societies.  Yikes.  Thanks for a whole new batch of nightmare-fodder.

And just to feed my worries, lately the ant population seems to have doubled in our yard.  They’re slowly surrounding us, and I doubt their intentions are benign.

I mean, seriously.  Would you trust this face?

creative commons ant(Photo by Steve Jurvetson used under Creative Commons license)

We’ve tried ‘green’ commercial ant-killers with no success, along with all the home remedies ever suggested:  vinegar, boric acid, boiling water, cornmeal; you name it.  One thing we haven’t tried is casting the colony in molten aluminum.  That’s a permanent solution to the problem, but it might be a bit hard on our lawn.

They haven’t invaded our house en masse yet, so we’re maintaining an uneasy détente.  Every now and then one sneaks inside and meets a prompt and messy demise; and every now and then they swarm me in my garden, doubtless hoping to return the favour.  But if they ever mount a determined attack, I’m gonna up the anti-ant ante and get out the really nasty chemicals.

‘Cause the thought of being enslaved by giant mutant ants gives me the heeby-jeebies.  And even heebier and jeebier… they can strip a dead gecko to bare bones in a little over 12 hours.  That’s only a few thousand ants.  Imagine what a million could do.

Did I mention there are approximately one million ants for every human on earth?

Well, I won’t be sleeping tonight.

What critter is your nemesis?

* * *

New discussion over at the Virtual Backyard Book Club:  What’s up with Stemp? Click here to have your say!

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