Welcome back to Summer Sucks. For this week's delivery, we are talking about ants, a lousy guest of the summer house and an even worse snack at noon. (Warning: graphic content of ants below)
It's hard to talk about this, so I'm just going to start: Last week, while sitting in the office preparing to enjoy a homemade chocolate chip cookie, I inadvertently spread and possibly ate a significant number of ants.
The cookies had been given to me by a friend with a talent for baking, and I suppose they had left them on the kitchen countertop overnight, wrapped in aluminum foil without squeezing. I brought them to work on Thursday, then I spent most of the morning waiting for my reward in the afternoon. Around lunchtime, I placed cookies in our shared desktop group, at which time (shudders) A torrent of ants spilled, apparently surprised to be in Manhattan.
When I realized that I had infiltrated, that my delicious snack had already been reclaimedThey arrived moments after swallowing a medium-sized bite. Under the circumstances, I would say I played great.
"It was a really penetrating regret," recalls witness Jake Dobkin. "I have a seven-year-old daughter with insect phobia and I can honestly say that I never heard a person scream louder than Jake O. that day." (There are conflicting reports on this point).
When I was in a hysterical panic I handled the situation calmly and professionally, the fast-thinking Gothamist editor Chris Robbins took care of the stack of many legs with Windex and napkins. Supposedly some more ants have been seen in the area since then, although their origins remain unconfirmed. I did not get sick. I had a semi-violent dream of being trapped in a pulsating ant.
And that's all I would like to say about the workplace debacle and cookies for now, and also, forever.
Unfortunately, almost a week later, the situation on the ground has only worsened. These cunning bastards are still rampaging my apartment, rubbing their thin antennae on the counters, probing the bathroom for pieces of toothpaste. They are a well organized union, composed of multiple flanks that move incessantly and with great purpose.
My attempts to crush them have failed so far. The deployment of bait traps on elevated surfaces seemed to work for a few days, but since then the ants have returned in an even greater number (we have a dog, Nancy, who would happily eat the poison and die, thus limiting the possible capture region) . DIY remedies have been even less successful: I have now tried vinegar and cinnamon, the cumulative effect is that my kitchen smells like pickled cinnamon, which my new roommates seem not to care at all.
A brief search on the Internet confirms that I am not alone. Sometimes it is easy to get rid of ants; other times they are not. A co-worker shares that his father kept a snapping turtle in the basement to swallow domestic ants. I'm not there yet, but it's not out of the question.
I decide to call Deborah Gordon, a biologist at Stanford University who has spent decades studying the behavior of ants. When I tell her that I'm losing the battle against these damn ants, she explains that my first mistake was to believe I could win.
Despite the craft industry around the killing of ants, human efforts to get rid of insects mostly only amount to "the illusion of control," says Gordon. "Eliminating them is not an option. The best you can expect is to divert them to another side. We don't really control what they do."
His fatalism is backed by science. After spending eighteen months surveying people living in the Bay Area, Gordon discovered that ant killers such as baits, cleansers, sprays and herbal remedies had an insignificant impact on Argentine ant infestations. Instead, the behavior of insects seemed to be largely governed by the weather: they arrived when it was scorching or excessively humid heat, then returned outside when conditions became more tolerable.
Remember that in the weeks before last Thursday, it was very hot and very humid. As extreme weather events are expected to become more frequent with climate change, so are pest infestations. We will see who laughs then!