What Is This? A Porch for Ants?
There were a whole host of movies that traumatized kids in the 1980s. There was the dying horse in "The Never Ending Story." There was the death of the dinosaur mom in "The Land Before Time." There was an ant who bravely fought a scorpion in "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids." If these were cinematic Aesop's Fables for millennials, that could explain some of our anxiety, and guilt.
Let me catch you up on that last film, in case you're much more discerning in your movie selection than I was: the kids were shrunk; they walk through the jungle of their backyard; they adopt an ant with a Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pie. Nature, however, still finds a way to instill trauma with the slow, lingering death of an anthropomorphized ant. Who cries for ants? Sensitive '80s children who end up debating their core values decades later.
I drank my coffee as the exterminator walked up to the porch. I told him I felt like a mother taking their child to the emergency room and the child being fine when they got there. Really, I said, we have a lot of ants, and pointed at the paver stones beneath me. He laughed and said it was the temperature; they'd be back when it warmed up after the rain.
For most of the summer, my husband and I tried our best to curate some monk like calm to live in harmony with the ants. We maneuvered our outdoor chairs around their most visible routes. We hoisted our legs awkwardly onto planters. However, it did not seem that the ant colonies received the same memo on harmony, as they hurriedly climbed our legs whenever we sat outside for a few minutes. We'd get bitten and were chased back indoors. We grew indignant; they didn't even pay rent to take up all the room on our porch. Our inner monks were hampered by not being allowed our morning coffee on the porch.
I explained to the exterminator we had tried a baking soda concoction, but stores were out of the critical ingredient of borax, and we winged it. We also tried the internet wives' tale of taking a shovelful of one ant nest and plopping it over another nest to have them fight each other. That didn't work either, I can report.
"You may have made super-ants," the exterminator said. Marvel already trademarked that idea.
I told him I had middling success with vinegar and water in my daughter's room, chasing their trails over the walls for two solid weeks. My daughter had camped out in the living room to escape the winged ants, who must have appreciated the motivational aspect of the winged unicorn decor because that was the only room they enjoyed. Firm success for their eviction only came with my husband resealing the floor.
But I was done. I explained to the exterminator somewhat dolefully that we had been trying to maintain a pollinator garden; could he use the low-grade weaponry?
"It's just... we have a birthday party coming up, and we can't have ants as party favors," I said.
The exterminator assured me he'd stay away from flowers and any place bees could be. It made me feel better, but I doubted the veracity of the claim. I was complicit in luring tens of thousands of ants to take poison instead of a cookie back to their queens. Humans are the invasive species, a virus; Agent Smith was right.
When he was done, the exterminator told me that we had every type of ant that they sprayed for in our backyard. The exterminator told me he might have to be back, but all I knew is that I had another season to see how I can get that memo made and delivered to the Center for Ants.
Cassie McClure is a writer, millennial, and unapologetic fan of the Oxford comma. She can be contacted at email@example.com.