Home on the Range

It’s spring, and with spring we were once again entertaining the invasion of the Little Black Ants*. (Yes indeedy, sometimes the common names of insects are actually straightforward, and we have things like Little Black Ants or Soft Brown Scale.) Every year I put out the bait traps and spend several days sponging most of the 3 mm. arthropods off the counters and drowning them in the sudsy dishwater, until the rest of the wee bastards have taken enough poison back to crash the colony.

Don’t get me wrong — I like ants. I think they’re fascinating, and spent many happy hours of my childhood watching them. I just don’t want them in my house any more than they want me in theirs.

It’s tiresome for me, and it’s tiresome for the family who are subjected to mum’s infobites about the Formicidae, although this past week the kid finally understood why the alien race from the Ender’s Game books was called the Formics. (However, ants have nothing to do with Formica plastic, which just goes to show that etymology is as convoluted as entomology.)

Ants will of course, leave trail-pheromones for other ants to follow, and these were all energetically tracking around in their proscribed invisible-Tube map pathways around my sink, the faucet, the countertops, the splashback tiles, the Kitchen-Aid mixer, the breadbox, the cutting board, the knife block, the dish (draining) rack, the electrical sockets and switches, the toaster oven, the stovetop (range), the sugarbowl and butterdish (both of which have lids — hey, we’re not immaculate, but we’re not stupid), the coffee and filter cannisters, and anything else that the human residents had left sitting out.

(Insert clichéd maternal nagging to family about not cleaning up after snack-making.)

The other afternoon when I was doing the washing-up, I stood there and observed their peregrinations until I was able to finally pinpoint the ingress spot. Underneath the window ledge was a slightly chipped spot in the grout, and I waited to observe two ants disappear into the hole and not re-appear (which would have indicated a dead-end). Ah-HA! So yesterday I tracked down the remainder of the tube of tub caulk and clotted up the hole. I swabbed up the remaining immigrants (after photographing them). The good news is that no more ants have appeared today, which likely means that there’s not another hole. Maybe I’ve licked the problem once and for all.

Or, at least until another weak point develops in the grout.

* These could be Monomorium minimum or some species of Crematogaster, but they were running around too fast to get a really good macro shot to tell which. I want a microscope of my own!