Ok. Dry desert heat and all. Six months and the first encounter with unwelcome multi-leg visitors, not a bad stat. But really, why can’t ants just follow the rules of my-space-versus-your-space? I knew it was pressing fate – it was only a matter of time before I would see an ugly antennaed head calling up the ranks as the rest dutifully fell in line. At least the sugar bowl was on the table side, and not on the pantry side.
My deep aversion to ants started the summer I was four. We had a garden in our New Jersey back yard, which included these huge sunflowers that were ripe for the picking. One day I snuck out to get a first crack at them (before my brothers discovered them and wiped out the crop). I was so intent on reaching up and picking out the seeds that I had not noticed I was on an ant hill. It was hot, and I was getting sweaty, so I hadn’t realized that the tickling sensation on my legs from my ankles to under my skirt (I had to be wearing a sun dress) was a mass of those prickly little buggers climbing on my skin. I don’t know how my mother got me to stop screaming – wiping them only transferred them to my arms. A long hose-down with cold water, then a bath to make sure they were gone followed. I woke up in the middle of the night thinking they were still on me. It’s been a while since I have been a fan of sunflower seeds, just because of association with the whole ordeal.
So now I have a new breed of ants to contend with. Quite frankly, these Arizona ants are pretty microscopic, compared to the pests I have encountered in Southern California and Northern California.
In Los Angeles in the early 90’s there was a plethora of ants during the drought years, before el Nino and el Nina showed up to wash them all away. I am talking about the half inch black ants that burst out of the bathroom shower plumbing and make your bathtub look like an Edward Gorey poster. White Chinese ant chalk, ant traps, all sorts of sprays – none were as effective as boric acid powder. Is that stuff available anywhere anymore? (It also works great to reduce eye swelling for puffy lids, by the way.)
In the Northern California bay area, we had a summer of thousands of armies of argentinian ants that were not happy about being displaced by home construction next door. Those little buggers were incredibly hardy. They streamed in columns 1 inch wide and kept coming, insecticide or not. I remember one particular morning I spent about 15 minutes spraying their trail and wiping them up as they came charging like the energizer rabbit. Trying to get a lead on the trailhead was almost impossible because they came up through the appliance wall in the kitchen. My cats thought I was trying to feed them a high protein appetizer, and they weren’t buying it.
Of course it didn’t help that we had a common wall with our neighbor’s condo. After surrounding our exterior walls with bait and lining the full interior walls as well (of course we had to make sure the areas were not cat accessible) with powder and that pellet stuff, they finally disappeared. But like clockwork, for 3 years they would appear in April and not disappear until July. So much for ant bait. It made for a long three summers.
So now I am faced with the task of creating a defense plan. Sure, I’ll let them play in the yard – on the other side of the fence. But now, after a trip to the store, I have sprayed the exterior and interior and logical points of entry. There were not enough of them to make a traceable trail. I even doused the anthills we had spotted this past Sunday on the back fence barrier – a harbinger if I ever observed one. You can be sure this time, however, that it won’t take me long to contact the professionals. When it comes to ants, it’s them versus me – and there are way more of them than me.