Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Don’t bug me

New to this area, I haven’t spent a summer here yet. Locals laugh knowingly when I tell them this. It will be quite a show, I know, this Yankee will be melting like a puddle of butter in on a hot biscuit.

Maine’s cold weather for most of the year means for most of the year we don’t have to deal with bugs. We have to deal with frigid temperatures, snow, mud, heating issues, fuel prices, but bugs? Not so much. Overwhelmingly, the bugs stay on their side of the battle lines, outdoors.

Here, it’s a different story.

Over the last week I’ve noticed these fruit flies in the kitchen. I don’t have any fruit in the kitchen. I’ve got spiders, too. They’re fast and black and they scurry across the wood floors, quite visible and a little too bold, if you ask me. “Go get it!” I’ll tell Abby the cat. “What kind of a cat are you?” Nada. Adding insult to injury, she’ll lay there with one eye open, tracking the spider’s progress across the carpet. I was OK with the fruit fly intrusion and the occasional spider. Apparently Abby was, too.

But I was not prepared for the fire ants. And that they invaded my apartment in horrifying numbers last weekend was just wrong. Very, very wrong.

I noticed them in my closet, where I had set my damp laundry bag. Unbeknownst to me, these things out of a science fiction movie are sensitive to even the tiniest changes in humidity. I thought they were regular ants, and I thought there were only a few, so I shook off the clothes and started to sweep the ants up with a paper towel. Secure in the knowledge that I am way bigger and have superior intelligence, I was muttering something akin to “I’ll get you my pretty,” when they started to bite.

All over my hands, they bit. I had been concentrating so hard on getting the scattering ants on the floor, I had not noticed their pointed and strategic attack on the killing machine that was my hand. It worked, I stood up and shook my hands and yelled a few things. Then I started stomping on them. However, that was a poor tactical move on my part because I was barefoot. They climbed on my ankles and bit me harder. Now who is the higher intelligence, one may ask. Let’s not dwell.

I shot to the store and bought traps and spray. When I came back I noticed a neat line of ants crawling along the kitchen, bathroom, and emerging in the bedroom closet. Long lines, always in one direction. Being a smart human, one who is now shod in high ankle sneakers and armed with deadly spray, I intuited that they were likely being driven inside by the severly dry conditions and looking to set up a nest behind the damp bathroom wall. I set the traps and sprayed. Mocking me, they just re-routed. I sprayed again. The fire ants re-routed again. This was serious, the blows to my ego were too much to bear. I called in the big guns: my knowledgeable landlord.

I’ve never seen a person move so fast. Arriving a few minutes later, unscrewing a trap door in the closet that allowed access to the areas behind the bathroom along the length of the building (very, very smart!) she sprayed with some stuff that I am sure has higher concentrations of poison than Bikini after the hydrogen bomb tests. I didn’t care. And neither did my cat, who for the last 12 hours had been attacked wherever she slept and had plunged her nose into her food dish that had been crawling with fire ants. The landlord then went outside and sprayed the perimeter. For the last day I have not seen hide nor pincer of these frighteningly intelligent and vicious creatures.

I have learned that it is important to wear shoes in Georgia, indoors or out. And that your home is your castle, as long as there isn’t a smaller but more aggressive creature that wants to move in.


Anonymous said...

Great story. I ran into fire ants when visiting my brother who lives in Florida. I asked him why no one lays out on the lawn to sun tan and he told me it was due to the fire ants.

I'll stick to Maine thank you. I may get carried away by the mosquitos when I go canoing but when those few get into my house I know I can take them in a fight.


christie said...

I don't think I've ever run into these guys, although right now we have a community of regular tiny little ants traipsing across our bathroom floor, providing much entertainment for our cats.

Aren't fire ants what attack Sally Fields in that one movie set in Texas? The use of the word "fire" in the name certainly implies it doesn't feel particularly enjoyable to be bit by one.