Horrid Ant Rodeo!
Wow, my last post was in June. Blog, I have been sadly neglecting you. I Skyped with my husband last night, who is currently in Bulgaria, and after my daughter and I told him our wild tale, he gently reminded me that it would make a great blog post. Remember the blog?
A few months ago, my mom and my daughter and I went outlet shopping, ostensibly to get school clothes for my daughter. For some reason (maybe because they are neat, and cool, and I had one when I was a kid), I bought her an ant farm. These newfangled ant farms are much cooler than their predecessors. Mine were in sand, and you had to remember to feed and water your ants. I forgot. They didn’t live very long, but they were cool while they lasted. This new one was a space age ant farm! The sand has been replaced by a green gel, which is used not only for tunneling but as a food and water source. No more forgotten dried up starved ants! And they came with a battery, and a built in light, and the tubes and gel would illuminate a brilliant irridescent green so the ants could be watched in the lit tubes, busy at work!
A few weeks later, we got around to ordering the ants from good old Uncle Milton. Yes, this is still the company that made my ant farm and grew my ants 35 years ago. Uncle Milton informed us that he can only ship ants at approved ant temperatures, which are basically below 80 degrees and above freezing, and predicted to be sustained for at least a week. This really meant that we were going to have to wait all summer and part of the fall for the ants, because it simply does not get below 80 in Alabama in the summer or early fall.
At last, last week, we received notification that the ants were shipped. My daughter was ecstatic! I was pretty excited too, and so was my husband. So we set out to wait for the ants. My daughter was dying of impatience. Daily, we had to check the tracking number and see where those ants were. At last, they were slated to arrive this Monday.
The ants came early, on Saturday. It had been a pretty cool day, in the upper 50’s most of the time. I picked up my daughter from her friend’s house and told her I had a surprise. The ants had come! She was wild with excitement. So, frankly, was I.
We opened the envelope and found a tube of ants and some miscellany, ant life stage and photo poster, magnifying glass, ant farm club card, and instructions. The instructions warned that if the ants were warm and moving rapidly, they should be placed in the refrigerator for a few minutes before attempting to transfer them to the farm. The ants were hardly moving at all though, and they were all huddled down in the bottom of the little tube. I figured they were cool enough.
Your weird piece of advice for the day: always refrigerate your ants prior to dumping them from a tube. I cannot stress this enough.
We raised the top of the farm, popped the tube lid, and tipped the tube in one swift motion to dump them into the farm. They BOILED out of the tube and up out of the bottom of the farm, escaping faster than we could catch them. Ants on the counter! Ants on the floor! AWFUL ants with huge mandibles, which made a clicking sound which was audible. It was if they had been lying in wait: Now, everyone, huddle in the bottom of the tube and look cold and pitiful. When the gullible dumb lady tries to dump us in, EXPLODE OUT OF EVERYTHING! An Ant Coup-d’Etat!
My daughter was panicked. She is allergic to fire ant bites and had been warned not to touch the ants. I told her firmly that this was no time to panic, that we must capture the ants and get them in the farm. (Of course I was secretly panicking – my kitchen was full of HUGE ANTS!)
There was no chance of replacing them in the tube. It would have required a piston-like action to shove them back in there, which would have resulted in flat ant pieces. We couldn’t leave the farm open to load them in, as they boiled out the top when we opened the lid. I looked around wildly. What to do??
I grabbed the cut open manilla envelope and thrust it at my daughter. Hold it open, I told her. I scooped an ant with a piece of paper and dumped it in the envelope. My daughter shrieked, “Mommy, the ant is getting out!’ I told her to thump thump thump the envelope so he would keep falling back to the bottom. Keep thumping! Thump! Thump! Keep thumping!
I scooped another ant and shook it violently off the piece of paper. It had chomped the paper and was dangling off of it with its huge mandibles. I thumped the paper. The ant was in the envelope! Thump the envelope! Keep thumping!
I kept scooping ants and dumping them into the envelope. We actually managed, I think, to round up all the ants. They were a bit dazed, probably from all that time in the tube and the dark, and they didn’t run far. Success! Only, not, because now we had an open envelope full of ants that we had to keep thumping, and an ant farm that we couldn’t open because all the ants would come boiling out. What to do?
Tape the envelope! We both arrived at the same thought at the same time. I grabbed the envelope and shook all the ants to the bottom hard. Then, I quickly folded over the top of the envelope and taped all the edges tightly closed, taking care not to push on the envelope and squish the ants. It went again every one of my natural instincts not to just stamp the wretched things into mush with my heels. There were ants! Running around! In my kitchen! And they were HUGE!
Success? Welllll… we had an unopenable ant farm full of roiling ants, and a taped envelope full of ants that we couldn’t see, that might, or might not, be mushed or escaping. It was a dilemma not unlike that of Schrodinger’s Cat. Were they alive in there? Would opening their envelope affect that outcome in any way? We had an envelope full of mad ants, a farm full of mad ants, and one mad ant that we had somehow imprisoned back in the original tube. Into the refrigerator they all went!!
Now what? Now we would wait for the ants to get sluggish. Why oh why did I just not chill them in the first place? We ate dinner and waited for the ants to chill. Periodically my daugher would say, Mommy, I need to go check on the ants. She would peer into the refrigerator and report back. Yes, the ants in the farm seemed to be moving slower. No, the ants in the envelope did not seem to have escaped. By the end of dinner, with great misgivings, we decided to go with Ant Round Two. So far, the ants were winning.
We lined up the farm, the tube and the envelope. I quickly shook the tubed ant into the farm. One down! Next, the hard part. I gave the envelope a vigorous shake so that (with any luck) the ants would be shaken down to one end. I cut off the other end and peered in wildly. Yes! They were in there! I tried to shake them into the farm in one smooth motion. No joy. Some of the ants were clinging to and biting on the envelope. They wouldn’t shake loose. I gave the envelope a vigorous thump. Some fell in. Another thump. More fell in. One wicked ill-behaved ant glommed onto the edge of the envelope and then fell on the floor. Mommy! The ant is on the floor! Damn ant! Come here, ant! Scoop! Cling! Fall! On the floor! Come here, you bastard ant! Mommy, don’t say curse words! Sorry! Scoop! Cling! On the counter! After several rounds of this last recalcitrant ant and its cursed behavior my daughter told me to oh, just stomp on that one, because it’s stupid! I was tempted. However, I had wrestled this ant for so many rounds that I was determined. It would go in the damn farm!
At last, in it went. The lid went on the farm for the last time. Success! The wretched ants were imprisoned! We peered in with great interest. They were still climbing up the sides, trying to go out that way. Ha ha! No exit for you, ants!
I can neither confirm nor deny that there were a few ant pieces (OK, more than a few) in the bottom of the farm, but I was pretty sure I had seen some ant pieces in the bottom of the tube before we opened it the first time. So of course, we were not responsible for some of the pieces. I was pretty sure that we HAD beheaded an ant or two in slamming the lid back on the farm the first time.
We counted ants. The order was supposed to contain 30 ants. There were, in fact, nearly 30 ants, plus assorted ant pieces, so I felt greatly reassured that they had not assembled a mutinous colony under my dishwasher.
Now my daughter was amazed. The ants are awesome, Mommy. Yeah, awesome, I told her. The only good ant is a dead ant! We hummed a few bars of the Pink Panther Theme and giggled. I went to put the ant farm in my daughter’s room and she stopped me short. She didn’t want the ants in her room. She was scared of them. So now the horrid things have taken up residence in the main area of the second floor. Ants! Wretched ants! Never again!