Monday, December 8, 2008


I’ve been thinking a lot about ants lately. It’s hard not to think about them when every time you go into the bathroom for your morning ablutions you discover the ants have beat you to it! In the bathtub. Around the shower tiles. Across the floor. Up the sides of the commode. I have never had to combat ants in my bathroom before.

I’ve had bad moments at various points in my life where it appeared the ants were on the way to taking over the house, but this is the first time I’ve had the bathroom as the battleground. I can’t tell where they are coming from, but they come in the night and are always awaiting us at the crack of dawn.

I’m not the only person in our apartment complex to battle ants. Whoever calls the office and asks that the pest control people come to their apartment and spray for ants will be the cause of an ant infestation in one of the four adjoining apartments. I am convinced the ants have built an entire subterranean city under our apartment building. The minute the lucky ant at the end of the line who can make it back to the nest unscathed after any spraying issues the call to move operations into one of the other apartments. It’s always with a bit of ruefulness that I call for pest control; it’s like siccing my ants onto someone else.

I also suspect that with this network of tunnels under our apartment unit, in the event a decent-sized earthquake arrives and centers itself in the Mira Loma area, our one story apartment building, composed of 12 individual apartments, may simply disappear into the ground. If we disappear suddenly, it won’t be the rapture nor a sink hole; it will just be a case of ant-tunnel collapse. The ants may see it as “payback” time for the many times we’ve come at them with ant spray. Or fed them corn meal, or tried any of the other tricks that are supposed to do them in. (Early this morning it was spraying them with Tilex, which was the handiest thing available).

Just so you know as much as I do now about ants, I just read an interesting Slate article on them, and found an article in the newspaper about a new ant book: The Superorganism: The Beauty, Elegance, and Strangeness of Insect Societies by Bert Holldobler and E.O. Wilson. Slate writer Christine Kenneally tell us the following:

“The Superorganism” is a completely wonderful book. It is packed with astonishing findings and beautiful illustrations, and, happily, it also contains enough information about ant civilization to set up a few ants-vs.-humans scenarios. Let us skip lightly over the fact that to compare ants and humans is to pit thousands of species against just one. Rather, let's start with the idea that we begin the contest evenly matched—at 6.6 billion humans and approximately 5 million billion ants, humans and ants have roughly the same biomass. What if a global disaster struck? Who would come out on top?

I’m not sure I’m interested enough in ants to read this book, especially since I have enough global disasters to worry without adding a new one to it. Nevertheless, it does sound like a book to nose through while sitting in Barnes and Noble with a nice Pumpkin Spice latte.

Oh, and just so you learn something new today, the study of ants is called myrmecology. Store that little piece of trivia as your “new word for the day!”

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