Thought Catalog
September 21, 2011

How To Deal With An Ant Problem

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What is the issue?

I have a very unique ant farm at home. It doesn’t have sand, viewing glass, or a wood encasing. It’s about 400 square feet and includes utilities. If I could shake it up and down and kill the ants I would, but I don’t know where exactly to apply my grip. Perhaps under the stove.

I recently moved into a new apartment. When I was considering the place I asked the landlord if the apartment gets bugs, and he responded, “Only if you leave food out,” which I later realized was in reference to the entire state of Washington. Because the first day I moved in, I sat down to eat a burrito (the only food in the apartment), and before I got to the beans there was a riot of ants heading towards me. They were all over, constructing ladders and using a system of pulleys to bring me and the burrito down. I immediately drove to the grocery store and bought some ant spray, a few traps, and a bag of gummy bears (which was unrelated to the ants).

Since I’ve been branded with those cute animated Raid advertisements, they sponsored my initial attack. Beyond the matter of their effectiveness, one may give Raid credit for one thing: they have the best looking ant traps out there, as though they subcontracted Apple for the design. The traps will match everything in your apartment, and their sleek look allows you to pretend they’re everything but ant traps.

I placed a few around my apartment and began watching. Nothing happened. I rang a bell yelling “Come and get it.” Nothing happened. I put the traps on a plate. Nothing. I laid out mini red carpet, improved the ambiance, and got the traps reviewed in several prominent food magazines. Nothing. I said to myself a little loudly, “Boy this ant poison sure is delicious. I can’t believe someone just left it here.” A fly showed up and I shooed him away. I bet if I served American food they would come.

After a few days there was still no action. I found out that Terro liquid traps are actually the most effective, which is completely understandable, because nine times out of ten I’d prefer a refreshing beverage to a meal. The Terro traps do not look as cool as the Raid traps. They are about the size and shape of a pill cutter, and contain a little pathway which leads up a ramp to a pool of liquid. About a minute after I cut one open, a small ant tapped on my back and said, “Are you using that?”

Within a few hours there were streams of ants heading to the various trays I laid out, even the Raid traps, which made me think they initially showed up for the Terro traps, but finding a huge line, decided to take their business elsewhere. It’s like Pat’s and Gino’s in Philadelphia. Now like every consumer new to an ant problem, I had the impression I was merely feeding them, that I had taken on hundreds of very dull pets who otherwise would have died (I like pets, but these were impossible to leash). Sure the poison was killing them, but how fast? How is this any different from a McDonald’s? Are McDonald’s God’s ant traps? They look the same from above.

At points like this, it’s necessary to refer to the box. You will nervously read the box a hundred times and often its copy is written in a very sympathetic tone. I encounter sentences like, “Just leave the ants alone” and “Do not move the traps” and “Calm down.” They know the temptations are endless. I wanted to crush them while they walked, but that might detour them from proceeding. I wanted to adjust the traps to a better position, but if a hot dog stand kept moving, I probably wouldn’t eat there either. I wanted to yell racial slurs and spit at them, but that might build a kind of solidarity and later lead to a revolution. So I stood back passively, as I do in every other situation in life.

After a couple weeks the traffic slowed down immensely. There were still a few stragglers heading to the traps, and there may always be a few heading there, because some people don’t know when to stop eating. Or perhaps the ants were ordering in now, and these were simply the delivery men. During this calm I read a little about ants because it’s important to understand your enemy (what’s a Taliban?). Apparently the little stragglers you notice are called “foragers,” and it’s their job to find food and leave behind pheromones so that other ants can find the same food and carry it back to the colony. In a way, the foragers are the biggest threat. It’s best to capture them alive and find out what they know, cold war style:

Chason: Tell me what you know.
Ant: You think those tweezers scare me?
Chason: I know they scare you. They make fake limbs where you come from?
Ant: Do your worst. I’ll be replaced, and my replacements will be replaced.
Chason: You’re my only concern.
Ant: Fuck you. What are you doing? Oh god, oh my god, stop, please stop. I’ll talk.
Chason: I’m listening.
Ant: I know you have some bread in the cupboard, you leave dirty dishes in the sink, and there’s an apple in the refrigerator.
Chason: How in the hell do you know what’s in the refrigerator?
Ant: We have a man on the inside.

If this method doesn’t work, it’s time to ant-proof your apartment. With children it’s best to cover up sharp corners, with bears it’s best to hang your food in trees, and with ants it’s best to act like you never have and never will eat any food at home. You must always clean your dishes, take the garbage out, and completely seal your dry goods. Do not listen to My Fair Lady and dance around the apartment eating a piece of cake, no matter how fun it is, because you’ll drop crumbs everywhere and embarrass yourself in front of neighbors. When you order food, whisper into the phone, and if you’re going to make a sandwich, try to do it in less than sixty seconds. Do not have picnics in your apartment, and avoid overfilling your cereal bowl. Leave out fake fruit to provide disinformation, and never let it slip that you know about the queen. Do not laugh manically in front of the traps, but observe from a distance, and if you ever catch the ants watching you, start eating the liquid from the trap so they think it’s normal.

After a while the ants will become only a minor irritation. This should allow you to focus on more important problems in your life, and as time passes you’ll secretly want the ants to come back, because they don’t make a trap for alcoholism, or your fear of intimacy. So maybe you throw a cookie against the wall, pile dirty dishes on the floor, and leave the refrigerator open. The ants heroically return and you smile warmly, as they follow a series of crumbs leading all the way to your heart. TC mark

image – Sancho McCann

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