(Hu)man versus Ant – The Neverending Battle

Ever since humans have been living on Mother Earth, there has been a battle amongst all living creatures for survival. It doesn’t matter if you are awake and aware of your surroundings, since even trees and plants, unable to move from the spot in which they are rooted, have become predators (such as the Venus fly trap) or developed defenses against predators or other life forms encroaching on their territory, such as the creosote trees in the Western United States which secrete poison into the soil to keep other trees from growing too close to them.

So here I am in what I consider the tropics, and I would gladly share my abode with nature, but nature has a way of encroaching on my space. I would see tiny little ants – hormiguitas – in my kitchen. I would conscientiously make sure there were no stray crumbs lying around and keep my food in containers, jars or in the refrigerator. Yet every day I would see these tiny creatures. Ant traps didn’t seem to be doing any good, so I went to the store and found a gel, which I decided to use and observe what happened.

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I opened up one of the gel packs and put it on the kitchen counter next to the sink. Over the next few hours, I couldn’t even count the number of ants that came to the trap to feed. But having them fill their tiny stomachs with Borax wasn’t enough. I needed to find out where they were coming from.

I didn’t have to wait very long. The ones that didn’t die before returning to their port of entry formed a line and marched right out of my house through an invisible crack in the mortar of my backsplash tiles. Once they were all gone, a little silicone paste sealed the opening, and that was the end of that – for now, I presume.

So that was inside my house, but as of last weekend, another battleground arose in our shared space of my property, specifically, my peach trees.  I usually don’t root around in my garden after dark, but last weekend I went to see a movie and returned home around 10-10:30pm.

I noticed a lot of movement on my cobblestone driveway and upon shining a flashlight onto the ground, discovered an army of ants carrying pieces of leaves and marching in a line towards my gate, while a line without leaves was marching into my garden. There were literally thousands of them.

I went to my peach tree and what I saw was a tree literally covered in ants – thousands of them, climbing up the branches, cutting leaves, marching back down with those leaves.  All I could think of was my can of Raid and my bottle of Trompa pellets, so first I grabbed the can of Raid and sprayed the _________ out of the ants on the ground. Then I got my bottle of pellets and sprinkled them at the base of the trees.

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I was hoping this would do them all in, and so I gathered my two cats and kept them inside with me that night, afraid maybe the Raid, or maybe eating some of the poisoned ants, would harm them.

The next morning, I went out to observe the damage. Most of the leaves of my peach tree were gone, yet other trees were untouched. I knew from past experience that they seem to have a taste for peach leaves, while others like my basil leaves.

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Peach tree pretty much stripped bare

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Trees in the foreground and surrounding the peach tree untouched.

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One lone peach untouched – the ants only wanted the leaves.

     Surveying the ground, I saw many dead ants, but surprisingly there were many that seemed to have nervous system damage, but were still alive. Some were just waving their legs wildly, while others tried to pick up their leaves and continue their march to their nest

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One thing I WAS able to do was find their point of entry. I noticed them carrying their bounty under my gate to go out into the street. So I went down the street to the hardware store and explained my problem. I came away with a bag of white powder called Hier – still don’t know what chemicals are in it – and sprinkled a line at the bottom of my gate and around the peach tree. Also sprinkled a good amount onto the trunk of the tree, and waited until nightfall to see what would happen.

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After sunset, I went out with my trusty flashlight. I observed some of the ants coming in from under the gate, checking out the white powder, and then turning around to go back out. Mission accomplished – or so I thought.

The next day, my gardener found that there was an opening between some of the cobblestones on my driveway. There was a tunnel through which they were coming onto my property once again, bypassing the gate. So we took some of the powder and poured it into the opening.

One day last year I noticed what looked like a wave on the sidewalk across the street. Upon closer inspection it was hundreds of thousand of ants covering the sidewalk – an unbelievable sight. So I imagine we must be on top of a massive underground city of ants with maybe miles of tunnels covering who-knows-how-much territory and therefore I am concluding that the battle will continue with no clear winner in sight, only temporary victories followed by continued vigilance.

As an addendum, the former owner told me that I should only use one form of insecticide, that the pellets would be carried to the nest and take care of things, but I was bothered so much by seeing my beloved peach tree covered in ants, that I wanted to throw everything at them that I could. For now, I will stick with the Hier powder and hopefully, they have carried enough pellets back to the nest to do some damage – again, for now.

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