Wednesday, August 11, 2010

She Rants for Ants

I want to say a good word for ants. I do.  You know, by August every year, it seems that folks develop a mob mentality toward ants. They want ants killed, preferably in large numbers.  Ants are in the garden, in the splits of our tomatoes, all over the ripe figs.  Death to ants!  But, wait!  I have noticed, around our farm, that the tiny ants, measurable only by dozens and hundreds, are an important clean-up committee for our environment.  Where do I find ants?  Well, there's a hundred of the teeny-tiny little black ants manfully carrying off that dead grasshopper from the porch I meant to sweep yesterday. I left it, the ants came to help.  And there's a dozen or so brown ants, each carrying off a tiny bit of cracker from the crumbs I let fall around my lawn chair while eating lunch.  They clean up, they carry off - the debris of my world becomes the food for theirs.  Off it goes, out of sight, to be stored and used over the lean months to come. 

There is a truly horrible radio commercial out now, promoting some national exterminating company, that has a "requiem" sung in praise of killing as many ants as possible.  How miserably sad.

When we began weaning our household off poisonous chemicals, one of the hurdles we had to face was the onslaught of ants.  Following them backward, we discovered tiny cracks and entrances around the farmhouse where the ants could get in.  We were not successful in stopping all of them and eventually stooped to small "ant traps" (poisonous bait traps) in two locations, attempting to deter the ants without blanket spraying of everything in sight.  Must have been successful, meaning we committed a pretty thorough genocide, because the interior ants disappeared.  We still have lots and lots outside.... so I have hopes that perhaps "the word" went out (ants are fabulous communicators as entomologists have observed) that the inside of the house was bad news.  And I now clean the counter tops carefully with a good herbal cleaning wipe - not water, which only dilutes the sugar molecules and spreads the invitation.

Meanwhile, do they adore and crave the sugar of my ripe tomatoes and figs?  Yes, well, of course they do. So do I. They move in on any garden goodies that I've missed or allowed to get overripe or damaged.  It is always interesting to note that those species most hated by humans are the ones that either we fear or that compete with us for food.  Or that are icky looking.  Or that aren't where we want them to be. Or.......

The Ant by Ogden Nash
The ant has made himself illustrious
Through constant industry industrious.
So what?  Would you be calm and placid
If you were full of formic acid?

Munch, munch -- Sybil

PS - Yes, I really did find a determined crew of little black ants trying to carry off this dead Hercules beetle.....  a bit like me trying to cart off a 747 airliner.

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