James Lileks
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It's not that I hate ants. I love ants. But they seem to think they can just set up shop under the patio and ruin the foundation for the bricks. Let me tell you, Queen and all your minions, I've seen the mortgage papers for this place, and you're not on the title. So you have to go.

But how? A trip to the neighborhood store that sells all the domestic poisons shows two options. One, a spray that kills ants individually. Pull up a chair, watch the hill, pick 'em off as they appear. Seems like a lot of work.

The other is the poison bait trap. You snip off the end and place it by their front door. "Kills the Queen!" says the box, which sounds so Shakespearean you wonder if the instructions are in sonnet form.

The ants pick up some of the sweet poison and take it home, whereupon everyone dies. Not all at once, though. There's time for that one guy who brought it home to get a really serious reprimand in his personnel file. It works, I guess, but it depends on the ants doing the important part. Why can't I just pour the stuff down the hole?

"Oh, no," the inventor says. "That would be too crude. It lacks the satisfying knowledge that the ants themselves are the instruments of their destruction."

OK, but the important part here is "destruction," so maybe if I just inject the stuff into the hole ...

"No! The grim pleasure arises from knowing that the ants cannot help but bring about their ruin, that the lowliest worker in the performance of its duties delivers a fatal gift to the monarch in her chambers! And in her dying, she knows she is undone by the mechanics of her social constructs, a regime she was unable, for all her power, to undo!"

Dude, they're ants, not French nobility. Let me squirt it down the hole.

The other day my wife had an idea: drown them. I said, "Sounds good, hon, but let me google that." Because I'm pretty sure ants have adapted to such anomalous events as "rain." Turns out they have; they just decide not to breathe until the situation improves. Unless it's boiling water, which cooks them good, but the water usually cools to non-lethal temperature by the time it reaches the Queen; she scoffs, says, "Thanks for the bath," then extrudes a total colony replacement in a day or two. And they rebuild the hill by excavating more paver sand to replace the stuff you hosed away.

One anti-ant website said boric acid is the stuff. So let's go to Amazon and see what comes up ... ah. Boric Acid Roach Killer. Also, Boric Acid suppositories.

Hmm. No, I don't think it would be easy to get the ants to be still for that, and I can't imagine they'd be easy to insert, even with tweezers. Oh, those are for people? I don't want to know.

I found one page about homemade remedies, and it said this about poisons: "(T)hat slow kill works really well. Ants are very sensitive to random deaths in the workers, so this gives time for everybody to have eaten at the table, per say."

First of all, it's per se, Latin for "by itself," so I don't know what they're trying to se here. Second, I'm a bit dismayed by the idea that ants are sensitive to random deaths, because it seems that "random death" is a rather fundamental aspect of ant existence.

"Hey, I sent you a message via pheromone; we're going out looking for food; why are you staying in your chamber?"

"Go on without me. I'm trying to deal with what happened."

"What happened?"

"X3923s(click)(broodchemical=positive)3i2 fell over dead yesterday. One moment he was carrying a piece of leaf back home, the next he just keeled over. They think it was his dorsal aorta. Really makes you think about what you're doing with your life, doesn't it? I mean, is it all just carrying leaf fragments? "

Anyway, I bought the baits and put them out. That was two weeks ago. I can report that the colonies have not rebuilt their ant hills, and there seems to be no activity. If they moved to the lawn, fine; I'm happy to let them live there and deal with the periodic terror of the lawn mower. Perhaps when they evolve, the mower will be part of their mythological beliefs, and they will set out small offerings to turn away the wrath of the deity they know as Lon-Boi.

There probably will be another sect that worships small wax images of leaf blowers, so if you see two colonies fighting, that's probably what that's about.