Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Ants and I

Did you ever play SimAnt? The youths will not remember this, but back in the early '90s it came bundled with the original SimCity and SimLife. You play an ant, or rather a whole colony of ants that you can control one ant at a time in your quest to collect food, dig your nests, reproduce, defend the colony from predators, and defeat your ultimate enemies: the evil red ants, and those pesky humans. (You can find versions online that work with modern hardware and software if you want to (re)live the experience.) I never really warmed up to the game that much but I did learn some things about how ants work - communicating with chemical trails and the like. Enough to know that if the ants in my yard were pursuing the victory condition I would long ago have been forced to flee.

I have a large and lush yard, which I love, and which I share with a humongous supercolony of ants. Or rather, they share it with me. Not fire ants or anything, just little black ones, not terribly threatening, but they are EVERYWHERE. A vast empire of ants constantly scurrying from one nest to another along an expansive network of chemically-signposted superhighways across the entire property. Sometimes you can see them carrying pupae or bits of food or construction materials back and forth along with them but mostly they just seem to be going, to where and for what purpose I cannot say.

Mostly we ignore each other, the ants and I. Sometimes I like to sit and watch them, indulging my inner nature documentarian, or make up silly anthropomorphic stories about their journeys on the insect Silk Road, trading seeds for tiny bits of overripe fruit from the exotic East. Sometimes we work together: all the butterscotch candy dust and tiny broken shards of Jolly Rancher from my Texas Independence Day piƱata were completely cleaned up within a week. Well done ants! And you're welcome. It's only when they start to move into the house with me that I begin to get annoyed.

In their quest for lebensraum the ants now seem to be trying to colonize my kitchen plumbing, despite the significant inconvenience of several daily floodings. At any rate there now seems to be a trail on the network, if only a meandering farm road, leading to my kitchen sink overflow drain. And every time I turn the faucet on a couple of ants come pouring out too. It's kind of gross. There also seems to be a nest at ceiling level in the master bedroom that sends out occasional scouts to wake me up in the morning by crawling over my arm. I set up traps, but whatever American ants like to eat has no attraction whatsoever to the local variety. I've been patient, but I think it's time to get out the big guns. Get ready ants - cohabitation only goes so far, and the sprayers are coming for you!

No comments:

Post a Comment