6,000,000 Cleaning Ladies
AS a child, I was very young. I used to harass ants, stomp on their hills and throw burning sticks in their path. Later I collected insects, gassed them in jars with formaldehyde and pinned them to boards. It’s payback time. These gruesome tales traveled through the ant world and now the ants harass me, though they haven’t used fire or pins yet.
Of the 10,000 known ant species, approximately 9,487 live in or near my bungalow—big, nasty thugs from the red ant mafia; carpenter ants the size of horse pills wearing utility belts with hammers and hacksaws; tiny antlettes, almost invisible specks composed of nine ant molecules; small, medium and large generic black ants marching 20 deep in columns extending from somewhere in or near my bungalow to somewhere else in or near my bungalow.
For a few futile days, I reverted to childhood and waged an Ant War with traps, poisons and Britney Spears songs played at high volume. The odds were against me—one to several million. They’ve owned this land for thousands of years and I’m just visiting. Now, instead of expensive poison bait inside, I place a cheap buffet of sugar outside so at least I know where one end of their column is. The same concept removes unruly stray dogs—throw a dead chicken into your neighbor’s yard.
If you think you have problems, imagine facing the daily dangers of an ant. As you walk to the market, a spray can larger than the Goodyear blimp exterminates thousands. While relaxing in the sun with your kids and your eggs, a broom the size of a soccer field whisks your neighborhood into the next county. While hunting alone for food, suddenly a finger as big as a skyscraper streaks out of the sky and scrapes you into oblivion.
The worker ants are actually quite helpful: industrious, organized cult members that work 24/7—all female. As two million flying termites descend on my bungalow at night, six million cleaning ladies efficiently begin corpse removal. Unfortunately, they only fancy the bodies and leave me with eight million wings to clean up.
With superhero muscles they carry up to 50 times their weight. With that strength, I could lift two tons, very handy in tight parallel parking situations; just get out of the car, pick it up and set it in place. Overcharged by the minibus from the airport? Carry the bus and all its passengers to a bridge and dangle them over the river till the driver sees it your way.
Searching the web for classified ant security data and elimination techniques, I found stories obviously originating in Thailand about the largest ant, the elephANT, and its strange relationship with other ants. What game do elephants play with ants? (Squash.) Why did the elephant lay his trunk in the path? (Trying to trip ants.) Why did the ant lay on its back in the jungle? (Trying to trip elephants.) What did the ant say on the elephant’s wedding day? (“You’re getting married? But I’m pregnant with your baby!”)
Being a bike safety addict, this news item tickled me. While riding his new motorbike, Mr. Ant meets an elephant that wants a lift to the market. Mr. Ant says, “Hop on.” Later he picks up two more elephants and the four of them head to town. A truck screeches to a halt in front of them and they crash into it. Paramedics arrive to find unconscious elephants, near death, but Mr. Ant only has a few minor injuries. (Why? He was wearing a helmet.) Carrying three elephants, the ambulance speeds to the emergency room as several ants follow on motorbikes. (Why? To donate blood.)
For more information about Lake Chapala visit: www.chapala.com