Thursday, May 18, 2006

Considering Lessons from Ants

This week's considerations are of a somewhat distinct nature...ANTS.

For those who have visited our new home, you may have heard tales of my late night obsessions with killing the ginormous, black ants who seem to invite themselves into our kitchen through our lower cabinetry and dishwasher. Now, we are not talking little, innocent ants which blithely traverse the floor en route to the cat or dog food...we are talking "mega ants" with heads and thoraxes to rival any WWF champion! These nightly intruders come thievishly into the house with not a care for the deabolt on the front door! In short, they disgust me.

For several weeks, Shannon has frustratedly observed my growing intolerance for our intruders. I have tried (well, sort of) to muster a Buddhist acceptance of the devils, but between sheer disgust at the sight of them and my own raging pregnancy horomones, I have been nearing my threshhold...then, the tipping point...

This weekend I was hosing off the deck and also washed off much of the shingling where wasps nests were beginning to appear. In doing so, I noted a few of my dark-side rivals close to the front door. I wasted no time in taking out my week of frustrations on them, doucing them with water to flood their big heads. I was in "extermination mode;" not something to be proud of, but real nonetheless. Soon, on the steps, I saw a HUGE ant with wings! I actually thought it was a termite and promptly stepped on it, feeling a satisfying crunch underfoot. Feeling triumphant and more relaxed (oddly!) that I had accomplished my mission to clean the deck, I went inside.

Well, the next morning all hell broke loose! Gigantic black ants swarmed the front porch! They were everywhere -- crawling up the front door, just begging to get inside...I freaked! I went off to work with crazed fantasies of horror films in my mind -- Shannon and I coming home to a house filled with swarms of Formicidae eating away at the house's foundation, crawling in our bed, overtaking the get the picture. My paranoia led me to call Northern States Pest Control who said we may have a "colony" under the house or in the crawl space..."A colony?" I asked... "Yes, ants build colonies guided by their queen. If the large winged ant you killed was the queen, you have probably angered the workers quite a bit," replied the receptionist. Holy crap...who knew?

Long story short, Bill came yesterday to assess the situation, bravely crawling on his belly (and I think I hate my job sometimes...) underneath our crawl space to indeed verify we had a large colony living downunder. I'll spare you the execution details, but suffice to say, Bill took care to spray profusely, ridding 106 Lost Horse of the ants. Hurrah!

Yet, here is the clincher...all morning I have been a bit obsessed with learning more about ants...Google "ants" and amazing things appear! Since ancient times, scientists, philosophers, architects and mathematicians have studied ants, their behavior and their social interactions. There is a growing field of study called "Ant Colony Optimization" where interested parties are looking at ants' complex social behavior through the lens of mathmatical algorithms and their theoretical applications...again, who knew?

If you are interested, you can also Google "Myrmecology" which is the branch of entomology dealing with ants. Fascinating!

So, just when I thought Northern Idaho was an intellectual wasteland...look who needs to rethink her very intelligent and highly sophisticated surroundings...

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