Summer around here must be one, endless picnic. How else to explain the ubiquity of ants?
Case in point: one morning last week, during the lovely soft hour after dawn, we were happily settled into our reading chairs in front of open patio doors, newspapers piled on our laps, cups of tea within reach. Our resident hummingbirds whirred around the patio, breakfasting on plumeria and Thai jasmine, and dive bombing each other.
We host an alpha male hummingbird that spends early mornings and evenings perched on a branch of the potted ficus, making sure other male hummers know who the boss is. Sometimes he’ll hover at the window, seem to read over our shoulders, but we think he’s either admiring himself—and he is pretty—or he thinks his reflection is a competitor to warn off. Whatever he and his friends are doing, they are entertaining.
We were still watching the hummingbird derby when the morning coffee klatch of parrots flew overhead, yackety-yacking all the way. When I turned back around to focus again on the news o’ the day, it seemed that the floor was moving. Was I dizzy? No, the rest of the room was still. I took a closer look and found a parade of ants streaming out of an electrical socket behind a heavy armoire and heading across the floor in a trajectory that, unless interrupted, would take them to the kitchen.
Performing an early-morning version of springing to my feet, I got out ahead of their conga line and made it to the kitchen before they got there so I could arm myself. My time-proven anti-ant arsenal consists of Windex and this stuff I found on a shop counter in Chinatown that we call ant chalk, because it looks like a stick of chalk. I have no idea what’s in it. The ingredients part of the label is written in Chinese, which no one at our house reads. When I asked the shop’s proprietor if it was safe, he said, “It work.” Sometimes you get desperate; I bought it.
Several years ago, at a time when we were losing a summer-long war with ants, we called an exterminator. He came. He sprayed. He put something around the house’s foundation that he said would keep ants out of the house for a couple of years. Whatever he used made both our cat and our turtle woozy, but hardly slowed the ants. The man came back. He said the ants were inside the walls. Argentine ants, he said they were. Fed on termite eggs, which would be fine with me if they stayed inside the walls, but they don’t. We declined further spraying, which meant continuing hand-to-hand combat with the critters. It was a losing battle, until we found ant chalk. Finally, we have the upper hand.
This summer, because of the generally mild weather, we haven’t had much of an ant problem. Then came the heat wave, and with it came the ants. The last couple of days have been a little cooler than it was last week. The great ant columns have dwindled to random search party scouts or little lost guys. I won’t miss them when they go away in the fall, but I will miss the endless picnic that summer is.
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