Travels with My Ants

Brian Steel

Evicted yet another huntsman spider (tarantula family but not really dangerous) from my bedroom, this time from the doorway and in broad daylight (cheeky devil). Feather duster and bucket, in one (admirable, of course) deft flick and a quick race downstairs, violently twirling the bucket to prevent the agile creature from crawling out too soon and defeating the purpose of the exercise. The front garden now has one more wild inhabitant.

While on the subject of wildlife, let me give you the latest on my ant tenants.

The tansy plant deterrent, which grew to six feet outside the toilet/kitchen, doesn't seem to have lived up to its genetic guarantee. Whenever rain threatens, or leftover sugar beckons, the ants have continued, without let or hindrance, to gather in the traditional kitchen corner between the cooker and the sink. (Could be worse: the pantry!)

Usually I first notice a few ant skirmishers rushing along the window-sill and the kitchen bench. (Ants NEVER stroll, do they, poor wee beasties!) After these Special Forces have given the all-clear, the hordes follow ... BUT, by then, this unfriendliest of ant-landlords has dropped strategic puddles of 'Check-Ant' sticky sugary poison for them to gobble up and take back to their Jonestown nests.

So the invading battalions, distracted by this ants' MacDonalds, crowd around the sticky goo and innocently devour it. After 2 or 3 days, maybe 4, there is usually an ominous (for them, poor little devils!) silence, and my kitchen resumes its normal lack of bustle.

Following their recent end of summer infiltration before the autumn storms, and the ensuing silent extermination, I was mildly surprised (alarmed, actually!) to see 2 or 3 NEW ants pop in 2 days ago. Could they be members of a new generation, immune to 'Check-Ant' bait? Was their visit due to a rather more sinister purpose: to tread in the poison and leave it all over my kitchen in order to contaminate my crockery and cutlery and thus avenge their parents and preceding ancestors with my untimely demise - to be celebrated by a massive ant party (where the main beverage would be Tansy Specials and where enjoyment, or ecstasy, would consist of SLOW, relaxed movement)? Would they ultimately take over the whole house, to the detriment of my children and grandchildren?

The short answer to this neurotic persecution fantasy is: "Apparently not". Because the ant outriders I had seen were today followed by the new hordes, which, as if already pre-conditioned, instead of scurrying and scavenging, simply settled down, in a black mass, to empty the trough of golden 'Check-Ant' ambrosia in a few hours.

Fear not, friends of this intermittent column, more 'Check-Ant' was speedily (but gingerly) squirted down for them and my fingers CAREFULLY wiped, washed and dried - Out, damned Check-Ant! - before a celebration snack of cheese, biscuits and - (i.e. Beaujolais, but that label isn't allowed on Australian wine!) as I sit down at the computer, relishing the thought of an ant-free kitchen, to await the news of the splashdown of the débris from the defunct 15 year-old Russian MIR space-station (this afternoon at 5.30?), in what we have been assured is a 'safe' Eastern area of this Pacific region. (So why have the Russians taken out a $400 million Insurance Policy? Do they know something we don't?

But that's another story.

23 March 2001

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