Friday, March 27, 2009

Bailando con las hormigas...

(Image from St Stev on Flickr)

Maybe it's my short attention span, but I've developed a liking for flash fiction. The stories are less than 1000 words, quick reads by anyone's standards. So I may indulge in some of them myself, partly as a writing exercise and partly as a way to keep new material here on CycleDog.

And I really do need the exercise! I've been trying to write something every day even if it's bad. Some of the stuff is complete crap, like a stream of consciousness or a simple list. This feels like trying to kick start a reluctant engine, one that sputters and dies easily, but churns out good ideas from time to time.

This one came'll see as you read it.

Once again, it's time for the annual ant invasion here in the unstately CycleDog Manor. The ground outside warmed up enough to disgorge hordes of the little buggers. The first raids involved my bathroom. Every year, it's the same. They invade the north end of the house and my bathroom, then start working toward the south. Jordan's room is next. It's a real party for them as my eighteen-year-old has a bad habit of leaving soda cans and bits of food lying around. The ants revere him as a god.

But the grand prize is the kitchen with all its goodies. We had a conga line of ants going under a window, across the floor, and up onto the kitchen table where a kid had thoughtfully spilled some pancake syrup for them. Sure, they'd wiped it up so we couldn't see it, but that thin film of sticky syrup was ambrosia to the ants.

In short order, they discovered sugar-coated breakfast cereals, the candy bowl, and the baking cabinet - the mother lode of sweet delights.

I was annoyed at finding the wash basin crawling with ants. But I blew up when I stepped into the bathroom one morning to find one of them using my toothbrush. "Could I have a little privacy?" she complained, and then went right back to brushing her mandibles. I'm a patient kind of guy so I waited until she finished, then crushed her. The worst moment, however, arrived when I walked out to the garage, only to find a gang of ants trying to steal my commuter bike. I'll be the first to admit that their tiny helmets were sort of cute, but there was no way I could allow the situation to continue.

It was war.

I spread insecticide in the yard that evening. It was one of the kills-everything-except-the-neighbors varieties guaranteed to last all summer. As I lay in bed that night, I gleefully imagined the ants gasping and dying, but my attention was drawn to a tiny little beat that sounded like a loud party on the next block. It was catchy dance tune, and for just a moment I fantasized about the ants doing a rain dance. That's when the rain began falling outside. Oddly, rain hadn't been in the weather forecast. It steadily turned worse. Rain pounded on the rooftop, and since this is Oklahoma and no storm is complete without them, lightning and thunder accompanied the unexpected frog strangler.

As just like that – click! It stopped. The rain was gone. I no longer heard the dance beat and I realized that all the insecticide had probably washed away. In a dark corner of my bathroom, ants giggled.

Tomorrow I'll call Wally to see if he has any ideas, hopefully ones that won't get me arrested or deported, and will keep in me in the good graces of She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed. That's a tall order, I know, so maybe I'll learn to live with the ants instead.

I really don't like spreading wide-spectrum insecticides on the yard. Mary and I think that we see fewer birds as a result. Besides reducing the insect population, we're introducing chemicals into the bird's food chain. She has health problems too, so I really hesitate to use bug killers.

The most effective ant killer I've found is Terra-X. It's a simple mixture of a sugary gel and boric acid. Mary calls it 'ant medicine.' The ants take it back to the nest, feed it to the other ants, and in a few days they all die. It kills roaches too. I put small drops outside on the brickwork and a few on pieces of paper along the back of the bathroom sink. Mary was concerned that one of the cats might eat the bait (some of the cats really are that dumb!) but the quantities are so small I doubt it would hurt them. Besides, the bait is usually covered with ants and eating them is far beneath the cat's dignity.

The first wave of invaders has been turned back. Their numbers dwindled through the week and yesterday I didn't see any in the bathroom. However, we've had rain moving through all morning. The outside bait will be washed off and another merry band will arrive after the ground dries again.



Blogger Yokota Fritz said...

Cats are pure carnivores and don't eat sweets, so the cat should be safe.

Do you have fire ants in Tulsa? I always used Amdro when I lived in Texas -- it seemed to work well.

2:02 PM  
Blogger Ed W said...

Cats don't eat sweets? Maybe in California. This bunch of hooligans, thieves, and neer-do-wells will eat just about anything that fits in their mouths, including: tomatoes, potato chips, carmels, ice cream, and pancakes - with or without butter and syrup. We've learned to keep an eye on our food at all times.

6:44 PM  

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