Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Ant & The Dishwasher

Saturday morning, MY WIFE and I were watching TV. She was sitting on the couch, while I was in an easy chair. She made an annoyed sound, and I asked her what was the matter. She said, “We’re going to have to buy some ant cups. The little ants are back.”

Little black ants intermittently invade our house. They show up once a year or so, usually during a colder month. They’re harmless, so far as I know. If I see one or two, I either try to ignore them or trap them to put outside. The problem is that one or two are almost surely followed by forty or fifty, and then they become impossible to ignore. If I ignore the forty or fifty, they’d be followed by a couple of thousand, and then maybe a quarter million, at which point they’d lift up the couch, carry it outside, and dump us on the lawn. Then they’d take the couch back inside, flip on the TV, and eat all of our graham crackers while watching… I don’t know; horror films about anteaters or something. I haven’t thought this through completely. You get the idea, though. At some point, the ants have to go.

The problem is that I hate to kill insects. They’re usually not doing anything to me personally. They just happened to wander into the same space I’m occupying. I hardly think that gives me the right to croak them. I mean, if a mosquito lands on me, that’s one thing. A mosquito will try to suck my blood. But, a little black ant? The worst he’s going to do is climb on my arm and tickle me. I should kill something because it makes me laugh? That would be bad news for The Three Stooges, if they weren’t already dead. Of course, some women wouldn’t mind seeing them killed all over again, but I digress.

Speaking of women, MY WIFE does not hold the same opinions concerning life that I do. She feels it’s just fine to squash an ant. It does not trouble her conscience in the least to provide an early demise for an ant. When I express my displeasure with her morality, she says that I should become a vegetarian. She says that I kill cows and such, if by proxy, and that’s the same thing. No, it isn’t. I tell her that if she wants to EAT the ants, I’m fine with her killing them.

Be that as it may – and, unfortunately, it is – I’ll buy the ant cups next time I go shopping. MY WIFE is more important to me than the ants are, so if it will keep peace, fine. And I can sort of rationalize the ant cups. I’m not shoving the ants into the cups and forcing them to eat the poison; they’re entering of their own accord and eating what they choose. So, it’s more like they’re committing suicide, if perhaps unwittingly.

Well, anyway, I tired of our continuing debate concerning the propriety of killing some creatures but not others. I decided to cease fire and enjoy a nice cup of coffee. I asked MY WIFE if she’d like a refill of the used mug she had in front of her on the coffee table. She answered in the negative. So, I grabbed the mug to put it in the dishwasher.

I hit the kitchen and opened the dishwasher. As I was placing her mug in the rack, I saw that one little black ant had hitched a ride on the handle.

I could have squashed the ant, but you already know how I feel about that. Another choice was to pick up the ant and place him outside. If it were spring or summer, that’s probably what I would have done. It’s winter, though, and putting the ant out into the snow seemed just as cruel as squashing him; maybe more so, as I have no idea how long it takes an ant to freeze to death. What I finally decided to do was just leave the ant in the dishwasher. He could fend for himself and my conscience wouldn’t bother me.

As I put the mug in, the ant fell off the handle and landed on the floor of the dishwasher. There were some tiny bits of food there. He no doubt thought he had hit the ant lottery. He immediately made his way to them. Satisfied that not only had I saved the ant, but had probably made him much happier, I shut the door to the dishwasher.

A couple of hours later, I had forgotten about the ant. I had eaten some toast and I went to place my plate in the dishwasher. As I did so, some buttery crumbs fell off of it. The ant – presumably the same one, anyway – reappeared, perhaps wondering if he had died and gone to ant heaven. All he had to do was wait a bit and, every so often, he’d receive a bonanza of food residue, refreshing liquids, butter, sugar, and other bits of treasure. Life was great!

Of course, his general attitude toward the beneficence of his God will change when the dishwasher is full. As he’s wondering just how much more good stuff can possibly come his way, the worst will happen. He will become a victim of a deluge that, in ant terms, will make the one suffered by Noah seem a light sun shower by comparison. Rather than getting another treat, he will be scalded, shaken, swirled about in a soapy morass, shot through the drainage hose, and then deposited in the sink. If he somehow survives that initial thrill ride, he will then find himself riding a wave into our garbage disposal, where he will not have time to admire his new abundance of wealth, but, instead, will be whisked away to his final place of disposition: a sewer.

I can’t help but think that, given the choice – and maybe granted the intelligence to make such a choice worthwhile - he might have decided that eating a bit of poison from an ant cup was not so bad by comparison. Or maybe, if granted that intelligence, he might be able to judge an appropriate time to exit the dishwasher of his own accord, rather than stick around to see what happens when his cup literally overfloweth.

Well, you can occupy your day for only so long with such flights of fancy, so I then went to do the grocery shopping. Among the things I bought were the ant cups. When I got home, I saved MY WIFE’s soul. Rather than delegating to her the duty of placing the poison, I laid out the cups myself. Hell, one way or the other I was to blame for killing the ants. Just buying the cups was enough to make me a hypocrite, so I saw no reason to remain all high and mighty from that point on.

I did try to get the ants to understand that they had a choice. I said to them, as I was laying out their poisoned treats, “Ants, this is poison. If you just go away now, you’ll be happier than you will be if you eat this. My advice is to leave our home immediately, not eating any of this seemingly delicious treat on your way out. It is not a delicious treat. It is death.”

I’m sorry to report that the ants did not listen to me. They fairly much ran towards the poison. As I write this, most of them have eaten their fill and died. Meanwhile, I haven’t done the dishes yet, so I’m still providing ONE ant with what he thinks is paradise but is actually an impending horrific doom. What a swell fellow I am! For all of my talk about not liking to kill bugs, I’m doing a fairly comprehensive job of exterminating them.

And now, I wonder if we’re actually any better off than those ants. Adam & Eve (or, if you wish, Adam Ant & Eve) were presented with a similar choice in the Garden of Eden. They could have lived indefinitely in paradise, so long as they didn’t eat one particular fruit that was poison to their souls, but they chose the poison. The result was death. God told them what the result would be, but they ate it anyway. And, much like my one ant in the dishwasher, after a while there were was only one person remaining that God deigned to talk to. Maybe I should try to get Noah, the ant in the dishwasher, to build an ark. I wonder if he knows what a cubit is? I really don’t want to imagine what he might be gathering two-by-two of, though.

Soon, with more better stuff.

[Image of little black ant from How To Get Rid Of Things, which appears to be a great resource should you be planning an insect holocaust.]


Michelle H. said...

Somtimes our lives are filled with tickling happy ants, and other times they are filled with Ant Cups of Doom. Don't know what that means, but I'm sure there is a moral lurking in there somewhere.

Buck said...

I have periodic ant invasions myself. But we are not so kind in our attitudes: it's jihad when they invade MY space.

I also nuked a fleet of moths (we're talking at least a hundred of the damned things) that apparently hatched in a bag of pistachios I kept in my microwave once upon a time. Talk about "shock and awe"...

I have a live and let live philosophy as long as my territorial limits are observed. But if insects invade my space... they will meet their lil insect Maker.

Craig said...

I dunno, Sully. . . You seem to be thinking WAY too hard about this. . .

We don't get the little black ants here; we get the BIG black ants. And they make Jen positively ant-blood-lustful (do ants even have blood?) "DEATH TO YOU, AND ALL YOUR CHILDREN!" she will be heard to cry. . .

Mushy said...

I'm selective in what I squash, shoot, or stab! I don't kill all snakes, and most deserve to live to kill worst things, but I kill those that can harm me or my family. I kill all ants and spiders (except Granddaddy Long-legs), and Yellow Jacket nest...out of preservation! I kill all mice and rats...or, I get killed by my wife!

Christine Macdonald said...

I can just see the scene in your kitchen. Love this!

PS: I would have squished them and my man is more like you.

IT said...

Once again I had a thought... then it totally evaporated when the verification word appeared... mishmife

Oh, well.

Jazz said...

You are so great at rationalization! I love it. You do, however tend to overthink these things I think.

If you're supposed to be outside, be there, once you're in the house, all bets are off.

Now, I think I'll have to tell you the story of the squirrel.

slommler said...

I too capture and release...but ants definitely will take over given half a chance. So I place little poison thingy's all over and they disappear. Too bad; so sad!! One time I bought a delicious apple pie and had it in the box. I hadn't seen an ant in months. The next day I opened the box and every ant known to man was in there. Devouring my pie!! I no longer catch and release ants. They must die!!!

Quirkyloon said...


But what I want to know is did you buy a teensy weensy leash to take your pet ant on a walk?

Since you seem to be extremely compassionate towards ants (of all things), why not walk the extra mile for him (or her)?

Brian Miller said...

lol. if you find a tiny boat in the dishwasher...let me know. you could probably seel it on ebay for a mint as well.

Ananda girl said...

If an ant wanders into my plate, I have no trouble flicking it aside and continuing eating. But if any other bug gets on my plate the food is ruined and goes into the trash. I see a trail of ants and I think "oh crap" and look for where they are coming in and to what attracted them. Now if I smell... because I can smell them first... and see magots, I swear to make a sailor blush and start looking for a male to remove it. Not that I find magots often mind you.
The point is that as bugs go, ants are not that icky. Much easier to take in stride.

Shrinky said...

The last house we had used to get periodically infested with giant FLYING ants, scared the bejesus out of me, so they did! It's not so bad over here, most of our creepy crawlies are pretty benign, but hey, this is the loon who leaves a lump of cheese out in the kitchen each night for the resident meeces, and who vacuums around bugs, I'm the last one to chide you about your present guilt-trip. Love the thought of Noah-the-Ant, could well be that's how God once viewed us too (and it was actually Mrs. God who sent the floods)? (Smile)

Angie Ledbetter said...

Life's just full of little piss ants isn't it?

Chris@Knucklehead! said...

I just gas the little bastards with a can of RAID. Quick, efficient, merciful. They never know what hit them.

Adam Ant and Eve. And now I'll have "Goody Two Shoes" bouncing around in my head all day. Thanks, Jim.

Cricket said...

Funny, it seems we're both commenting on Genesis today. Soon the poor ant will be exiled from Paradise. I kind of hate to kill things unnecessarily too, but the ants get out of control if I don't. Oh, well.

word veri: bractox - sounds like a new pesticide

Eva Gallant said...

I had a bout with ants, years ago. We had just moved into a house and my in-laws had come to dinner for my son's first birthday. After dinner, I opened the kitchen cupboard to get the birthday cake, and my baby-blue frosting was black! The cake was covered with little black ants--hundreds of them!! I screamed and screamed, and hubby grabbed the cake and threw it out onto the front lawn. No birthday cake that day! Luckily, at 1 year old, my son had no clue what had happened. We ended up getting the exterminators in and they found a huge ant nest in behind the dishwasher. No, no qualms about killing those suckers@

Angela Christensen said...

Have you ever read T.H. White's The Once and Future King? It's the (much longer, complete version) that served as the basis for Disney's Sword in the Stone movie, as well as the musical Camelot. It's one of those 10 Books I Need on a Desert Island; you know that list, yes?
Well, Merlin turns the boy Arthur into several different species of animals during his tenure as tutor. Before you allow yourself to think too much on your own about Ants and Our World, you gotta read this book. I promise you, you'll laugh, as you definitely made me do today.

i beati said...

I find the cooler it gets more creepy crawlies covering plants for the 3rd time in Florida, also found any fore edge books yet. I need someone to support my lackluster lifestyle..sandy

Shammickite said...

Hey Suldog, thank you for your kind comments about the Opening Ceremony for the Vancouver Olympics, I loved that poem too, it defines what Canada is all about, so I have quoted it on my latest blog post. Hope I don't get into trouble with the copywrite police!

Tim King said...

"It is not a delicious treat. It is death."

There's gotta be a metaphor in there somewhere.

I have my own ant story, and a similar fruit-fly story. I've made a note to blog about them on my blog, and I'll link back to this post when I do.


She Writes said...

Sorry, I am totally with YOUR WIFE!

Judi FitzPatrick said...

I'll be back to read this later, just wanted to say how much I enjoyed your post on your work blog with the 404 Error Blues - so clever and fun!!!
Peace, Judi

Uncle Skip, said...

I can't remember if I ever told the story about about the Thanksgiving turkey and the ants. The odds are, if I did, I won't find it because who knows what title I used. Anyway, I was never supposed to tell anyone, but I am the only person who is still left from that dinner... it was more than 60 years ago and my mother can't beat me now if I tell.

Damn! Did I just say it was more than 60 years ago?

Ericka said...

lol. quite an enjoyable read, my friend.

in chicago, the little black ants that appeared in my bathroom were a harbinger of spring. they'd show up, circle for a couple of days and vanish, shortly before the weather got nice. i never bothered them, and they never bothered me.

so i moved here, to the swamp and the little black ants appeared in my bathroom and i didn't think anything about it. four days later, and my kitchen counter was ALIVE with millions of them. my karma has taken a significant hit with the move 'cause my former live and let live attitude is mostly gone. now i squish first and ask questions later.

i had SUCH an infestation of ants that none of the poisons worked for long 'cause they live outside and just come in to forage and every time i'd poison a path, they'd find another. stubborn litte bastards. so a friend gave me this stuff called terro, which looks like dial handsoap but contains borax so the ants FEAST and take it home and it kills the nest.

but, it took an entire bottle to kill off all of the ants and in the meantime, every time i walked into my kitchen and grabbed the stuff to add more to the little food swatches, the ants would rejoice and come running and circle the swatches with excitement. before it was over, i was thinking of them as pets and feeling a bit guilty at my plot to murder them all.

it does lend credence to my friend's theory: "if anything starts handing out free food from the skies - just say no. and hide."

Uncle Skip, said...

Wait! I lied. It was only 59 years ago

Jeni said...

Your wife is most certainly one very wise woman -and I say that because I too dislike ants and any other type of insect I may see roaming around my space. So now we know that your wife and I are both very wise individuals because everyone knows "Great minds think alike" don't they? I flush ants down the commode, down the sink drains, with a shoe (on or off my foot makes no difference, as it becomes a weapon of choice) and if the ants get too large a toehold on the place, I break out the ant cups then too!

Uncle Jim said...

"They’re entering of their own accord and eating what they choose"...WRONG! You are luring them to their deaths by offering tainted tasty food disguised as McDonald's ant treats....loaded with poison. Killers!

GreenJello said...

I, too, am the kind who will relocate the smallest of creatures outside.

Except little black ants.

I've learned this is the best poison for the little invaders:


Daryl said...

ant cups of doom. seriously it says it all.


we live in a ground floor apartment less then a block from a park and a highway (and a river but the river has no bearing on this aside)and every 'spring' we are hosts to a lot of ants usually they hang out near the coffee table waiting I assume for one of us to drop something we're eating.... I wont tell you who feeds them more often but I will tell you who kills them .. me!

Merisi said...

Is there going to be a sweet good night story after that?

I can't kill a spider.
I always send them scurrying out the door.

Hilary said...

I've rescued a mouse and put it outside, and spiders, lady bugs and moths. Can't say I've ever paid too much attention to ants though. Not sure why the line is drawn right there. It shouldn't be.

Suldog said...

Hilary - My theory is that different people have differing levels of bigness they ascribe importance to. That is, some folks believe that anything from, say, a mouse on up is important enough, as life, to not step on it. Some folks travel a bit further down the scale (you, to ladybugs - me, to ants) while some psychotic others think nothing of kicking dogs and cats.

Of course, the morality of it all falls apart when we reach the level of bacteria, viruses, germs, and other unseeable-with-the-naked-eye creatures. I don't think there are more than a handful of people in the world who will willingly avoid penicillin to save a teeny tiny organism.

Uncle Skip, said...

Holy smoke, Sully, to carry that last thought to the extreme, that handful wouldn't use anything because they'd be offing some other organism.

Karen said...

Haha... *loved* the trip through the dishwasher - I was right there with the little ant!

Matt Conlon said...

I live in the woods of south-eastern MA (though I'm familiar with your hometown too, I actually got my driver's license there, some years back... lots of years back...)

But anyway, living out here in the woods, I'm exposed to quite the number of pests... Some which with combat with pets.

Mice, for example. We have to have at least one cat to keep them away.

Squirrels stopped digging up flower bulbs when we got the beagle.

Insects and arachnids seem to be the only thing left. Ants are among the things that continue to plague us, but are by far the least of my immediate worries, although I'd be surprised if they weren't causing structural damage here...

But most immediate are the parasites and stingy critters... We cosntantly have ticks riding around on the pets, as well as wasps, hornets, yellowjackes, bees, etc spinning up nests in my daughters' play things outside.

My wife will tell you that the most bothersome thing around here are the snakes that like to hide in the ciderblocks outside the basement door, but I disagree.

Another annoyance is that we get thousands of lady bugs. I know last year it hit the news, but it was no worse last year than it is for us every year.

Stink bugs too! Nasty looking little things that smell when you kill them.

Now, I'm all for live and let live. But I have an unreasonable concern that when these little critters buzzing around me, inspecting the color of my shirt or what not, that they will get near my face, and I'll inhale them. Happens all the time. Gives me the willies to think about it.

Suldog said...

Matt - Well, see, some folks (you) don't really have too much choice in the matter. I'm lucky enough to be relatively pest free. If you let every creepy you saw go unmolested, it would be a hideous life, indeed. Circumstances dictate actions!

Judi FitzPatrick said...

What a great post - morality and humor all in one!

There is an ant issue over here in my place, too. I don't like to use poisons, so heard that "feeding" them corn meal would help eradicate the critters. Much like some of the poisons, they take the corn meal back to the nest where all are supposed to eat it and die.
Well, it sort of works. It clearly kills a lot of them as a time later, lots of dead ant bodies appear where they have been kicked out of the nest. But, I guess there are just too many to completely kill them all.
Just as you have done, I may have to resort to the dreaded poison, possibly even an exterminator.

But I draw the line at spiders - I let them be as they may actually catch some of the other bugs that appear. Once there are far too many webs that need to be cleaned out, the spideys are "sent out to play".

I hope the little guy in the dishwasher found a way out before his/her fate was sealed.

Peace, Judi

Jenn said...

Jim only you could transition from ants showing up in your house to Adam (Ant) and Eve with such ease. I hope the little guy made it out of the dishwasher safely, avoided the trap and found a warm spot in this winter weather. Dare to dream!