I have a lot of daily chores in my new, smaller place. I’m very aware that keeping things cleaned up can transform an overstuffed look into an everything-in-its-place look. I had expected to do my dishes immediately, scoop the cat box twice a day, and constantly vacuum the high-traffic-area throw rugs, but what I didn’t expect was to be killing and cleaning up bugs twice a day.
To be honest, I’ve lived quite a few places in my lifetime and I’ve never seen these before. But perhaps that is because they are easy to miss…tiny, tiny ants like a period on a page. It is only their sheer numbers that makes them visible. I looked them up on the Internet: they are called “sugar ants” (though that is also said to be a misnomer). One article that I read said that they come out in the heat and dryness and are attracted to sugar and water.
So despite my initial panic, I am not intimidated. They don’t bite, and from what I researched, their presence is not a reflection on the host’s cleanliness (though you apparently have to be more diligent than you think). They are annoying and overwhelm you with their numbers. My problem did not seem to originate with my sink; it was the cat food.
My first reaction upon seeing them was to toss the overrun cat food dishes into the sink and run the hottest water I could, then desperately downpour on the ants with the only thing I had: multipurpose Lysol cleaner, which I then followed by wiping up the bodies with a paper towel. After getting rid of the ones I could see, I went to the store and bought Lysol spray instead. I didn’t want to use poison of any sort because of the cats (although I suppose too much cleaner is also poison). My mother suggested bay leaves so I purchased those as well (that was also mentioned on the Internet, as well as cloves). My landlady said we needed a mixture of Borax and Karo Syrup to poison them. I decided to forgo that and see how I made out with my Lysol and bay leaves.
So far, I am managing to keep them from overrunning my whole apartment, but they are not going away easily. As I was writing this, I suddenly remembered a favorite passage of mine from a Margaret Atwood book, “Lady Oracle.” The main character engages with the ants:
“The ants were into the spinach I’d bought the day before. They lived in the outside wall, spinach and meat were the only thing they’d actively hunt, everything else they’d ignore as long as you put out a saucer of sugar and water for them. I’d already done this and they’d found it, they were marching back and forth between the saucer and their nest…I poured myself another drink, then dipped my finger into the saucer and wrote my initials in sugar-water on the windowsill. I waited to see my name spelled out for me in ants: a living legend.”
At the time I read it, the only ants I had ever seen were carpenter ants, so my reader’s vision of big black ants spelling out a name like all-cap boldface type, was off-base. Now that I know what sugar ants look like, I can appreciate the subtlety of the image. I can imagine a “dotted” marquis look.
With that literary image in my head, I take wiping them out a little less seriously, but it is an uneasy truce. Give me a few days and I’m sure I’ll be stashing the Borax and Karo Syrup in my cupboard. There’s romance and then there’s reality…