Some of you live in a place (or have lived in a place) where there are ants. We’re not talking 3 or 4 a year, we’re talking ANTS!! We’re talking HORDES of ants – ZILLIONS of ants! The kind who get into everything. I have to admit right up front that I’m fascinated by ants. I mean – there are thousands and thousands of species of ants!! No one knows how many ants there are, but someone suggested 100 trillion!!! And someone even suggested that all the ants together weigh almost as much as all the humans together (except that most humans are getting bigger all the time).
Well, a few trillion of the ants in the world lived in the Philippines when I was there. And they got into all of our food. They could even get into our very, very tiny refrigerator. Nothing was safe! But what bothered us as much as anything was when they got into our box of cereal. That crossed a line! (So to speak). No Zip-lock bags back them.
But we figured out how to fool them! Oh yes we did!! Fei helped us come up with this idea (I’m giving credit where credit is due).
We had purchased a box of Cheerios from a place which had quite a bit of American stuff (yes, there’s lots more now… but this was over 50 years ago). We knew that soon enough the intense humidity and heat would “soften” the Cheerios (agh), but meanwhile, we were NOT going to let ANY ANTS get to them!! NO NO NO! NOT THIS TIME! The ants will have to MARCH somewhere else!!!
Here’s what we did: We built a MOAT. We got a shallow pan (like a pie pan thingie) and put water in it. Filled it. We then put a can of food in the center. So you can picture it… a miniature MOAT! The can represents the CASTLE (yes, you got that right).
AND (trumpets and drums in the background): We put the box of Cheerios on the top of the can! We had it on pretty good authority that ants can’t swim … except for those which form ISLANDS during floods! I “Googled” them and found out there were lots of “islands,” or “floating rafts,” formed during the recent flooding in South Carolina. How fascinating!! The worker ants (sterile wingless females….) link legs and mouths together, weaving a raft in as little as two minutes! They move their queen and larvae to the center, where they stay high and dry on top of the mass of bodies. The fine coat of hairs on the ants traps enough air so that those on the bottom aren’t completely submerged. They can survive several weeks, but they have to get back on dry ground if they’re going to be successful in restarting their colony. Predators (especially fish) pick them off one-by-one, and if they pick off enough ants, the colony/island/raft collapses. But not to worry: A single queen can lay 3 million eggs in her lifetime – so workers lost in the battle can be replaced.
BUT BACK TO THE CHEERIOS STORY! We could hardly wait to have a little bowl of still-quite-crisp, ant-free Cheerios that next morning.
We went to see the results of our ingenious moat (thanks again, Fei). ANTS! A WHOLE BUNCH OF ANTS! All over the box and all inside the box….. HOW? WHEN? WHY?…. Here’s what we discovered: They climbed up on the cupboards and PARACHUTED DOWN onto the box! Without parachutes!!
We should have built the moat out from under the moat! …But there was always the ceiling….