June 20, 2005

The Cold War on Ants

Like many homeowners in the south, my house has become a home for a bevy of insects in the spring. It’s the price that I pay for living in a more wooded, quiet section of Atlanta. We had termites that chewed under the back door frame, the occasional thumb-sized scorpion, but rarely do we have ants.

People will swear by their various methods of getting rid of ants: Dropping poison on the mound, running it over with a lawnmower, little plastic bait traps in on the floor or hosing down the perimeter with bug spray. Men brag about how they kill ants around the neighborhood like women will gloat over a good recipe.

As for me, I have a more, shall we say “unconventional” method of dealing with ants: Folklore.

I look at it this way: If you kill the entire mound, sure they learn their lesson, but two weeks later, a new mound will start up and give you trouble all over again. You need to think long-term.

As soon as I see ants in my house, I get the old Hoover from the coat closet and vacuum those little bad boys up. When I’ve captured all of them, I leave the vacuum plugged in right there, prepared for the next wave.

When the next group of ants comes through, I make short work of most of them. The secret is, I leave two or three alive, but shaken, to bring news to the rest of the mound. Repeat as necessary, but from then on, each successive raiding party will be smaller and smaller until they stop altogether.

See, ants are social animals. I imagine the survivors limping back to the queen, wearing the odd crutch or bandage, saying “Your Majesty! It was a slaughter! I saw my whole battalion captured by this black tube of rushing wind!” Eventually the little ant generals will realize that the Kern household is a hill that cannot be taken, and they will move on in defeat.

So the actual anthill survives, but that’s the beauty of it. Each successive generation from that hill, as well as any new colonies that come in contact with it, will hear the stories about the House of Sucking Death. Over time, as the legend spreads, there will be fewer and fewer raids on the house, until they stop altogether.

The ants can have my backyard, I never set foot in it except to mow it on the odd weekend. But we’ve drawn a line in the sand, and come to a tentative peace accord, enforced by the looming threat of my weapon of mass destruction, the Hoover.

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