Friday, December 19, 2008


Our kitchen is invaded with ants. Maybe it's the rain and cold weather that has driven them indoors, but for whatever reason they've been all over our kitchen counter. Since our counter has a granite finish it acts as a camouflaging background for them - you have to scan the surface for movement in order to detect them.

Those little pests got into some crackers we had on the counter, even though they were apparently sealed in cellophane. And they tried attacking a bottle of olive oil - they were all around the cap but luckily couldn't get in. They also managed to somehow squeeze under the cap of a bottle of balsamic vinegar and got caught in the threads but luckily that bottle was nearly empty so I just threw it out.

Spraying them is hazardous since that means putting poison near food areas. In the past I tried ant baits - the kind that are supposed to have poisoned food that the ants take back to their nest and poison their antmates but the problem is the ants show not the slightest bit of interest in it so it goes untouched.

On Wednesday I used a different brand of ant bait than the ones I mentioned in the last paragraph - one made by Terro. It consists of poisonous liquid inside of a little plastic container. You snip off one edge to allow access to the liquid, then place it on a surface near the ants. The ants find the liquid, take it to their nests and poison their fellow pests.

One box has six of these little baits. I used all six, putting them next to the microwave towards the rear of the counter. In much less than an hour's time, the counter was swarming with ants! They were congregated around all six of the bait stations like customers doing food sampling at Costco.

Let's hope it works.

I stood at the counter watching the ants. It was like they were on a giant playground. I also saw a few queen ants, easily identifiable because they were about 3-4 times larger than the workers. I am not sure if they were real queens or queens before mating (sorry to get so technical but I used to study ants and keep ant farms) that aren't able to lay eggs yet.

Whether or not this was an egg-laying queen, I still considered her a menace to the kitchen. So I got my finger and squished her flat as a pancake on the counter. Instead of picking it up I left it there to see what would happen (I did this with three of them).

The worker ants gathered around their flattened royalty. I couldn't tell what they were doing but there were these dark spots on the counter consisting of a mass of ants all surrounding and piling on top of the former queens. The latent scientist in me was wondering what they were trying to do. Was there some sort of chemical released when I smashed the queen that drew the ants to her? They sure weren't paying much attention to the queens pre-squish. Smashing regular worker ants did not elicit a similar reaction from the other ants. They walked up to the scene of the crime wiggling their antennae to briefly inspect the remains, then scurried away.

Well, sorry if I grossed you out today!

What do ants find humorous? The below video features their favorite actress playing the character that always makes the ants laugh. How can an ant be a bee at the same time?? That incongruity always makes them howl, pounding their six feet on the table, laughing their antennae off.

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