I am absolutely serious: if you guys can figure out a way to go after mosquitoes, you can have all the patio sand you want. I’ll even put out real sugar without poison. Deal?
Maybe I should explain.
A few weeks ago I googled “How do I kill ants?” and half-expected a page of ads for shoe companies. Yes, stepping on them does the trick, but I don’t like to step on ants.
There’s a colony of ants under the patio, and those guys are annoying. The paving stones rest on a bed of sand, which the ants remove for their tunnels and leave in little hills all over the place. The more sand they take, the more the bricks sag. You can’t file a cease-and-desist. You can’t yell at them. You have to nuke the whole thing.
But how? “Call in a professional,” you say. Hah! That’s not for people who change their own oil and set their own broken bones. No, you go to the hardware store and ask someone what works on ants. “I think this is new,” the clerk says, before returning to his usual assignment in plumbing. The container made a big deal about it being all-natural. Well, so is typhus. In this case, it means: “Won’t poison the dog. Much.”
I told him that I wanted old-style poison. Something with a long spiky named like Thantoplutohydro-murderclox 19.
He pointed to some bait traps that had pictures of ants on their back, because we all know ants flip over the moment they die, and an X appears in their eyes. “Kills the queen,” the package said, as if the chemical made the ants start speaking French and setting up guillotines.
Fine. We’ll try that. I put the traps outside and waited a few days. If anything, the hill building doubled. Note: by “put them outside” I mean I left the bag with the box of cellophane-sealed traps on the bench for two days, because I got distracted by Twitter. Then I put them out.
A few days passed. One night the ants built a scale-model Giza Pyramid on the bricks. So I put out four more traps, right by the hills, and put bowls over them so the dog didn’t eat them. That’ll do it! The dawn patrol will go out looking for food, and, “Hello, it’s on our doorstep! Did we sign up for one of those meal-delivery kits? Must be a free trial! What luck. Let’s just take this back and give it to the queen.”
Good thing ants aren’t cursed with individual consciousness, because when everyone in the hive starts keeling over, a lot of guys will give some hard looks at the guy who brought back the bait. “Thanks a lot, Stan. Great job. Some real quality foraging there.”
Then I got to thinking: Why can’t I buy something I can squirt down the holes? Why do I have to rely on the ants to pick up the poison and take it home? It’s a strange kind of hunting. It’s like geese hunters scattering buckshot all over and thinking, “Maybe they’ll dive into it really fast.”
So I went back to the store to see if there was something else that had been invented in the past week, and sure enough: There was a liquid bait I hadn’t noticed before. It’s a clear plastic container of poison. You twist off the end — by “twist off the end” I mean struggle with the poorly perforated plastic until it snaps off and sprays poison all over your hand — place it on the ground and ants go in. This I placed right by a conclave of ants who were working on a piece of decayed vegetation.
They had no interest in the stuff. I saw one ant walk up to the entrance, bat his antennae against it and back away. He had apparently detected the chemical equivalent of an e-mail scam. “Ha, they think that simple sucrose pheromones will mask the chemical signature of the poison. What dopes!”
Exasperated, I uncorked the remaining containers and poured the stuff down the hill holes, which is what I wanted to do in the first place. A few days passed. There were no new hills on the patio, no telltale construction debris.
The victory felt hollow, to be honest. I didn’t want it to come to that. It’s too bad that we couldn’t have just negotiated.
The other night the skeeters were out. Here’s my offer, ants: If you can figure out a way to go after mosquitoes, you can have all the patio sand you want. I’ll even put out real sugar without poison. Deal?