An Army Of Ants

Help! I just found an army of ants. At first there were just a few walking across the counter on my Hoosier cupboard. At that point I took care to secure my sugar in a plastic container with a tight-fitting lid. I had battled ants before and lost.

I investigated where I keep my chocolate chips, my powdered sugar, and brown sugar. Since they were all untouched I moved them into another plastic container.

I thought I had the ant battle won — that is until I put my hand into an opaque candy bag and felt something wiggly. When I peered inside I discovered the bag was filled with ants. It was time to clean out the candy drawer. Nothing else in the drawer had been touched so I just moved the rest of the candy to another spot.

When the grandchildren stopped by I had to show them where I moved my stash of candy. They are used to helping themselves. They used to be at my house every day after school whey they were small so they knew where I kept “the good stuff.” They were as much at home here as they were when they were at their own home.

Every year I struggle with ants. Usually it is later in the season, but it can happen at any time.

I enjoy watching ants but do not like it when they invade my space. When we first moved to Hickory Heights the children and I followed the directions I found in a book about making an ant observation station. We went out to an anthill and put some sand and ants into a glass jar. They we wrapped the jar with a sheet of construction paper. We left it for a couple days. When we peeled the paper away there were ant tunnels everywhere. We could observe the ants coming and going and carrying food to the other ants inside the jar. They carried pieces that were even bigger than they were. We put the piece of construction paper back so that we could observe our ant colony another day.

We left our jar outside just in case some of the ants escaped through the holes punched in the lid. Although this was a simple experiment, it was something the children enjoyed doing. I like to think that it taught them something as well.

Time for the grandchildren to learn about the ants. This time I purchased two ant farms at the tractor supply store — they were on sale. We followed the instructions carefully to set up our colonies. The directions said that after we filled the container with sand we were to send for our ants. That we did. When they arrived, we added them to the container.

At the time one set of grandchildren were living here. I helped them get their colony set up. Since it was self-contained, this time we set our container in the house on a table. I happened to have the ladies from the church at my house for a meeting that week. They noticed the container and asked about it so I explained what we were doing. I think they probably thought I was crazy to invite ants into the house, but oh well, the children were learning from the experience.

You know I think the one my children and I set up years ago was just as efficient as the purchased one, if not more so. Oh, the purchased one worked but I think we saw the tunnels better with the one I made years ago.

I fund out there are more than 12,000 species of ants. The material I read noted that ants adapt easily to new environments. Ants live in colonies that consist of a majority of sterile female workers, soldiers, or other specialized groups. The colonies contain some fertile males called drones and some fertile females called queens. The colonies work together to sustain the colony.

You may think of those little crawly bugs as without purpose, but scientists know they have a division of labor, communication, and the ability to solve complex problems. Because the ant’s parallel human societies they have long been the subject of studies. Believe it or not, ants have long been considered of value in cuisine, medication, and rituals. I am so glad that we do not eat ants!

In body form they differ from other insects having elbowed antennae and an external skeleton. They do not have lungs. Oxygen and other gases pass through the exoskeleton through tiny valves. They do have something similar to the heart that pumps and circulates fluids.

They have compound eyes that allow them to spot the slightest movement. Their vision however, is not high resolution. They do not see well

Each of the worker ants have a different job. Some carry food, some carry supplies. Some build their structure. Some workers keep the colony clean.

Ants communicate using pheromones. These chemical signals are extremely well developed in ants. The antenna receive the smells of the environment.

Do you wonder why ant colonies move from place to place? They move when their path to food gets blocked. They simply leave that area and move to another where there is food — thus my pantry was the perfect place for them.

While I find the behavior of ants extremely fascinating and I enjoy watching them, they are a major annoyance when they get into my home. My daughter found an ecofriendly solution to my ant problem on the Internet. I made a small batch of the stuff and it seems to be working. If you have an ant infestation I suggest you give it a try. I include the recipe here for your convenience.

Ridding an Area of Ants

4 T. borax

4 T. sugar

1 c. water

Mix until all ingredients are dissolved. Apply to cotton balls and set in the area where you spot ants. I made just a half a batch.

Incidentally, there are many good books to share with youngsters. Take them to the library and I am sure the children’s librarian will be able to help you find some.

Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, Pa. Contact at