Feeling Antsy?

It is officially summer which makes me think of all kinds of things: hiking, swimming, hot weather, cloudless days…and insects. So when I turned on NPR the other day and heard they would be interviewing entomologist and author Mark Moffett about his latest book Adventures among Ants: A Global Safari with a Cast of Trillions, I decided to listen in. And I am glad I did. It was fascinating and you can listen to the whole thing here on NPR.

Moffett is interesting to listen to, and even though I have had some bad experiences with ants in the past (see below if you want to read a re-post about my 2006 home remodel encounter with about a billion ants), he actually made me want to read his book. Moffett traveled all over the world researching ants and photographing them for his book. Apparently he has written a previous book about frogs too. Moffett also writes for National Geographic. To learn more about his work, check out the author’s website.

I plan on putting this one on my wish list!


The 2006 Nightmare (a Home Remodel Re-Post)

I have a friend who scoops up spiders, moths, and other insects found in her home and sets them free outside. She believes all living things have a purpose. I need to call her and ask her what ants do for the planet.

We removed the roof from our house and tore down the entire middle section. Apparently roof shingles are a great place for ants to set up a colony. A conservative estimate of their number would be about a billion. These are the tiny, Argentine ants that terrorize pantries and kitchens; and file in vast numbers up walls, through cracks and along counter tops. I didn’t start to get really concerned until I walked into our guest bedroom (now office) and noticed the carpet moving like an undulating wave of orange shag, whose center seemed to be the cat feeding station. I admit, I screamed. Perhaps I got a little hysterical. At any rate, my reaction caused Kip to bolt from his slumber and appear disheveled and grouchy in the doorway.

He tried to calm me.

“They’re just ants, Wendy.”

I gave him an incredulous look as I fought to drag the vacuum cleaner from it’s spot in the laundry room.

“There are gazillions of them.” I protested.

The cats watched from a distance, more concerned with the vacuum cleaner than the ants.

Several minutes later after a frenzied bout of cleaning, the carpet had stopped moving. I wondered if the ants could find their way out of the vacuum bag. I dragged the machine outside just in case. By then, Kip had returned to his nest of blankets and pulled a pillow over his head.

I thought of my friend and her pacifist ways, shrugged and lugged the phone book out to find a pest control company.

**Postscript: We ended up not using a pest control company, but fought the ants on our own. Each night (since that is when they would begin their assault on our house), Kip and I dragged out the ant killer, donned our headlamps, and proceeded to assassinate billions of ants as they marched from a large cedar tree, along the ground, up the side of the house, and into the guest room. It took us nearly two weeks of concerted effort to annihilate the colony.  Moffett has an entire section of his book devoted to Argentine ants which have taken over California. Apparently these tiny creatures are in constant battles with other ant colonies all over the state and show no sign of being exterminated.

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    • Lenore on June 21, 2010 at 23:14

    The dorm I lived in at college during sophomore year was infested with ants. They got into my cereal and offered extra protein 😉

    • Laura on June 22, 2010 at 03:33

    I love your remodeling story, Wendy! The first apartment Chris and I lived in, during our final year of college, was infested with roaches. Someday I’ll tell you about our eradication attempt. It was not successful. I was so glad to move out of there!

  1. I love books about animals and nature, so this one sounds right up my alley, thanks for sharing it. And can I just say, your ant problem really sounds like it was horrendous! We have a lot of ants here, but nothing like what you’ve described!

    • Staci on June 22, 2010 at 06:00

    Ants are bad news, except for when they’re helping my flowers!!!

  2. I’m sure I would have screamed hysterically too! My mum is fascinated by insects so the ant book sounds like it might be right up her alley.

    • Jeane on June 22, 2010 at 11:48

    Foreign ants invading California? wow, crazy! We once had an ant invasion that marched into our kitchen (when we lived in a crummy apartment and the landlord refused to fix the torn weatherstrip on the bottom of our entry door). Regardless, I think I’d like to read this book!

  3. That does look kind of fun. I do love books that take something random or everyday and then write about them. Ants are pretty ordinary (most of the time, anyway).

    • Wendy on June 23, 2010 at 07:09

    Lenore: They are incredibly busy little creatures. I am always amazed by their sheer numbers.

    Laura: Ew, I hate roaches. When I lived in Boston there were roaches everywhere. My cat, Clint Catwood, was an excellent roach killer 🙂

    Zibilee: We never would have had a problem had we not ripped our roof off and disturbed their colony. Apparently they liked living on the roof – it was warm and there was constant food with the tree droppings. Since we eradicated them, we’ve not seen them again (*fingers crossed*)

    Staci: LOL – I know they can be good for the garden!

    Avis: I admit, I’m a weeny when it comes to insects! I bet your mom would like this one. There are apparently amazing photos in the book too.

    Jeane: I was pretty interested in what Moffett had to say about the invasion into California. I guess this kind of thing is not all that unusual. My guess is these ants will continue to wend their way across the US. Watch out!!

    Kim: I agree. I like these kinds of books. But, I have to admit, listening to the author on NPR was what really sold me on the book.

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