Ants of Mystery

by J.D. Roth

Our household’s ongoing struggle with the local ant population is the stuff of legends. I’ve mentioned it here ad nauseum, and I’m going to continue to mention it until we wipe the motherfuckers from the face of the earth.

Our latest futile effort involves those little plastic ant traps that we’ve tried again and again. They never work.

The packaging on the new ones proclaim “now with two foods that ants love”. Right. They may love the food, but the trick is to actually get the little bastards inside the traps. If they’d go in, then maybe they’d adhere to the dream procedure: carry the food (and the poison) back to the nest, wiping out all of the little buggers, including the queen.

So we got these new traps. We bought two packages of four, giving us eight traps. I placed them in strategic locations around the house (both inside and out). I’ve been checking them almost every hour, but none of them ever have ants in them. The ants just don’t seem to care. They’d rather be exploring the trash.

Yesterday, while lying on the lawn to take a photo of the cherry tree, I discovered an ant trail — no, an ant highway — running from the Secret Lair of the Motherfuckers, across the bald spot in our lawn, and then — get this — up the cherry tree: up the trunk, past the crown, up the limbs and out of sight.

What are these ants doing?

Why are they climbing the cherry tree? Are they after the cherry blossoms? If so, why not go after the blossoms lower on the tree? Why climb the tree to near the very top?

Or, is it somehow possible they have some secret plan for world domination. Maybe they have a little ant-sized rocket ship hidden in the upper reaches of the tree. Maybe they’re working feverishly to complete an ant bomb in retaliation for the hordes of ants we’ve killed over the past few years.

Whatever. I don’t care.

I gathered three of the new ant traps and placed them directly in the ant highway. “Aha, you little motherfuckers,” I thought. “I have you now!”

Of course, I didn’t have them now. Or ever.

When the ants came upon the large impediments in the middle of their highway, they simply walked around them. Grrrr.

I noticed that certain pieces of grass served as special ant conduits, parts of the highway that every ant was obligated to travel. I carefully bent a couple of these pieces of grass so that they ran into the openings of the traps. The ants would walk down the grass but, just as they reached the opening, they would turn around and go back in search of an alternate route.

I held out hope that one ant — a single ant — would overcome his slavish obedience to the Ant Will and, out of curiousity, wander inside a trap to feed on one of the “two foods that ants love”.

Hope was all I had.

Once, toward evening, I went out side and looked at the traps again. Look! Inside one was a single ant, crawling over the surfaces of both foods that ants love. Alas, he didn’t seem to be feeding so much as wandering lost. He couldn’t seem to find an exit. I went in the house to get Kris, to show her my single ant prize, but when we returned, it had escaped.


Have these ant traps ever worked for anyone?

Sometimes I’m able to find a consistent morning rhythm. I’m out of bed at the same time every morning, in the bath at the same time every morning, out the door at the same time every morning, at my desk at the same time every morning. When this happens, it’s not unusual to pass the same cars and people every day on my drive to work.

One of those I’m passing now is a fellow on a motorcycle. Each day as I turn right from 13th to Ivy, he’s waiting at the red light. I need to take my camera with me one of these days, because he’s quite a sight.

Mostly, I guess he looks like any other biker except that his leather jacket is red. What really sets him apart, though, is his helmet. On top of his helmet, for no apparent reason, is a foot-tall metal spike.

I’m not kidding.

He looks like a frickin’ unicorn!


On 22 March 2004 (09:08 AM),
drew said:

Wallpaper your house in the same tileset as your website. That’ll scare the buggers off.

On 22 March 2004 (09:12 AM),
mart said:

bah. i like the color and depth for a change…

On 22 March 2004 (09:15 AM),
J.D. said:

Trust me: there’s worse to come.

I’m playing with design elements to see what I like. Today it’s an orange tiled background. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

Fortunately, I have a clear idea of what I want in my re-design, so I don’t think much tinkering will be required. The real problem is that I’m borrowing heavily from another fellow’s layout. If the final product mutates, as I expect it to do, then that won’t be an issue. If, however, my final layout is too close to his, I’m going to ask him for permission to use his code-base :/

On 22 March 2004 (10:27 AM),
dowingba said:

I see you’ve been over to Squidfingers looking for background patterns. I like this one cause it looks like chain-mail to me.

In case you were wondering, it is entirely possible to have a three columned layout using only CSS (ie: no tables). I’ve never done it, personally, but I don’t envision what the problem would be.

I know a thing or two about ants, as well. You see, they send out “scouts” to find food. Those scouts leave a “chemical trail” that leads to the food they find. They leave a little puddles of chemicals periodically as little landmark nodes for their armies, like when you’re camping and you leave a trail of twigs so you don’t get lost. If you can find one of these chemical nodes, I’m sure there are some truly dastardly things you can do to the ants. Have you ever played the game “Lemmings”? You know how there’s some places where a big hydrolic thing periodcally crushes your line of lemmings as they walk under it? Just food for thought…

On 22 March 2004 (11:07 AM),
Dave said:

I’ve already told JD about the ant pheremones/scent trails, but he doesn’t ever want to do anything about it, just complain. A little bleach or ammonia in some water and you can wipe out their scent trails and they can’t find their way around.

As for the (poisoned) ant food, believe me there are things that you can feed them that they won’t ignore. The trick is apparently to get the right thing for the right type of ant. We had pavement ants in our basement at one point. The exterminator came out, sprayed the base of the house and the put out a bunch of bait. Within 5 minutes those pesky bastards were swarming the poison and carting it off. In order to get rid of them from the main nest, Karen found a couple of their main exit holes and used a small bottle of super duper poison on the top of the hole. Next day, no more ants.

Does JD want to follow my advice? Noooooo. He’d rather complain about the ants than actually get rid of them. I think that he really likes the ants. They’re his buddies, his play pals. What would he do without them? He’d have to post one of those other blog postings that he’s working on at the moment…

On 22 March 2004 (11:14 AM),
J.D. said:

Do you think we haven’t tried to get rid of these things? Wiping out their scent trails works for maybe a day or two. Then new scouts lay down new trails and you’re back to square one.

We’ve had the exterminator out a half-dozen times in the last eighteen months. They’ve laid down every conceivable type of poison. They cause a temporary decline in the ant population, but within weeks the ants are back.

I don’t think I’m just whining and not acting. Trust me, we’ve done plenty of acting.

There’s a reason I call these little motherfuckers motherfuckers…

On 22 March 2004 (11:28 AM),
Dave said:

1) Wiping out the scent trail will not work forever, you need to keep doing it.
2) Obviously they’re attracted to something otherwise they wouldn’t keep coming back
3) The fact that you wipe out the scent trail inside the house doesn’t effect the scent trail OUTside the house (which is leading them to the house itself). Therefore you need to wipe out the outside trail as well.
4) Find the main nest and poison the main nest, not just around the house.
5) Consider that you may limiting yourself to using weanie-boy toxic chemicals because you don’t want to harm your cats. If that’s the case, then move the cats somewhere for a short period of time and nuke the damn ants.
6) If all else fails, remember that ants are not resistant to fire. Find the nest, dig it up, liberally apply gasoline and set the damn thing on fire. (Without attracting the attention of the Canby fire department of course)
Remember that your object is to KILL the ants. All of them. The more the merrier. The object is not just to keep them out of the house. That would be a fine objective, but they’ve proven that they can’t follow orders and stay out of the house. Kill kill kill. You ain’t blood thirsty enough, druid boy!!

On 22 March 2004 (11:39 AM),
Joel said:

It is times like these that I sit and ponder the question, “What would Wendell Berry do?”

On 22 March 2004 (11:52 AM),
Lisa said:

Oooh! The squidfingers patterns are extremely cool.

On 22 March 2004 (12:19 PM),
tammy said:

If nothing else works cut down that tree they live in!

On 22 March 2004 (12:25 PM),
Dana said:

Dave speaks much ant-related wisdom. Heed him. Consider getting different exterminators. Find the main nest (probably in your crawlspace, I assume).

On 22 March 2004 (12:31 PM),
Dana said:

Which reminds me — exactly which species of ant are we talking about? Do you know? And the trail that was making a ‘bee-line’ (ant-line?) for the tree — where was it coming from?

On 22 March 2004 (12:32 PM),
Emily said:

The pattern is fine, but the color is harsh.

On 22 March 2004 (01:14 PM),
dowingba said:

You could always build a moat between the ant hive and your house. Now, if you see the ants building little boats then it’s time to be afraid…

Am I the only one who think there might be a connection between this ant problem and J.D.’s apparent sugar addiction.

On 22 March 2004 (04:19 PM),
tammy said:

Ah, dowingba, me thinks thou art making fun of Jd’s little problem. Ants and boats? Tis easy to see thee does not grasp the seriousness of this situation!

On 22 March 2004 (08:46 PM),
Johnny Doe said:

Uh, Tammy, I think that should be:
“‘Tis easy to see thou graspeth not the seriousness of this situation.”

But then again, I never could keep straight the second person singular v. the first person singular for those archaic phrases, so perhaps it should be thou dost not grasp, or thou doest not grasp.

Where’s a handy Thor comic book when you need one?

On 22 March 2004 (10:50 PM),
kaibutsu said:

If you want to console yourself, you might try reading “The Argentine Ant,” by Italo Calvino.

Imagine if Kafka had written about pest problems…

On 23 March 2004 (09:49 AM),
Courtney said:

We have a very mild ant problem. I placed 4 of those plastic Raid ant traps and have only seen one ant in the last week. My parents had a serious ant problem. They have Orkin come out and spray every month and the problem seems to be under control. It’s an expensive solution but it seems to be working.

Back to your question about BBQ’s. I got Andrew a grill for his last birthday and we LOVE it. It’s a Weber Performer Grill – it uses charcoal but has a gas igniter. It also has a nice surface area. You can see one for yourself at

Updated: 22 March 2004

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