There's always a worse ant story.
July 27, 2010 1:41 PM   Subscribe

Invasion: You think it'd be impossible to share your house with your wife, your daughter, and fifty million or so Argentine ants (previously on MetaFilter). And you would be correct [Via].
posted by infinitywaltz (106 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
There's some on your leg...right NOW!
posted by fijiwriter at 1:44 PM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

(Before I read the article, isn't there a scientific name for the ants instead of 'Argentine Ants'? If they're in your house in the US, they're 'US Ants'... I'm only half kidding)
posted by vectr at 1:46 PM on July 27, 2010

Linepithema humile (formerly Iridomyrmex humilis).
posted by infinitywaltz at 1:48 PM on July 27, 2010 [3 favorites]

i am not clicking any of those links.
i am slowly backing away from the computer.
posted by bitteroldman at 1:52 PM on July 27, 2010 [6 favorites]

I fought a war with ants in the 90+ year old house I'm renting, back in the summer of 2006. The war took all season long. The casualties were in the millions.

But I had a secret weapon. Fipronil.

I won.
posted by smoothvirus at 1:53 PM on July 27, 2010 [16 favorites]

You are wise, bitteroldman. I am currently afraid to exist. Would that I had not clicked.
posted by theredpen at 1:55 PM on July 27, 2010

First, makle olur borders secure, and then we will pass legislation about illegal ants.
posted by Postroad at 1:59 PM on July 27, 2010

I read this a few weeks ago and all the while I kept thinking: Stop being such a damn hippie, for god's sake. KILL THE DAMN ANTS!

He doesn't want to kill the ants to set an example for his toddler daughter, that killing is wrong, we should love all the creatures of the earth, etc. Fine. Whatever. Except an infestation on the order of several million invaders is not something you can gently scoot onto a sheet of paper and let go outside.

If there comes a point in the future where I'm pitted against a swarm of ants for the sake of my wife and kid, I'm using whatever means necessary. Nuke from orbit - it's the only way to be sure.
posted by The demon that lives in the air at 1:59 PM on July 27, 2010 [3 favorites]

one caveat: my enemy was not the Argentine Ant, but instead was the Odorous House Ant.

But do not be fooled - they are quite wily. Little bastards even managed to colonize the power filter on my fish tank.
posted by smoothvirus at 2:01 PM on July 27, 2010

Some are still searching for the Ants Invasion
posted by Flashman at 2:02 PM on July 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

"Ten miles long, two miles wide - ants! Nothing but ants!"
posted by Iridic at 2:06 PM on July 27, 2010 [8 favorites]

Eh, it could be worse. At least they aren't Brazilian ants:
posted by Mr. Excellent at 2:09 PM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

We put most bugs outside (even have a humane bug gun), but you can't give ants any quarter. I figure if we were invading their home, they would kill us immediately, so they're fair game.
posted by JoanArkham at 2:09 PM on July 27, 2010

Yikes to the linked article.

We've had a couple encounters with waves of ants, and it was frustrating as they were a variety (I never was able to pin it down exactly) interested not in sweet things but in meat / grease, so commercial traps and baits were of no interest to them, though the cat's canned food unfortunately was.

But then we had a nearly-dead tree in our yard taken down and its stump ground, and since then we have seen no more ants, so I think we might have inadvertently solved our problem.

I seem to recall reading somewhere that ants constitute something like 10-15% of the world's total biomass. (Maybe it was animal biomass. Still, whoa.)
posted by aught at 2:09 PM on July 27, 2010

We had Argentine ant problems in our house. Emphasis on "had". We slowly isolated their paths of entry until they only had one left, and then we filled that entry with three whole syringes of Fipronil sweet baits. Three days later, no more ants, and we've stayed ant-free for three years.

As far as I'm concerned, there's no such thing as co-existing with invasive ant species. This is a species that, if it could, would gladly carry you off to its nest, millimeter piece by millimeter piece, and devour you. Their fear of you isn't out of some ingrained notion that you're not food and are to be avoided, but that you're not quite small enough to eat. I'm all for live and let live with spiders and such, but they're not actively seeking a way to kill me. Ants are simply biding their time. They invade my personal space, I say kill 'em all.
posted by Punkey at 2:10 PM on July 27, 2010 [7 favorites]

I've obviously never met proper ants.

Thank God.
posted by flippant at 2:12 PM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh, man, we did battle with these buggers when we were living in Fresno. Some days it seemed like the whole California supercolony was streaming through some unseen crack in the foundation into the kitchen, or the bathroom, or the bedroom. I would close my eyes at night and the patterns behind my eyelids would be nothing but lines of ants. We solved the annual invasion by cornering the market in borax-based Terro. And by moving to Pittsburgh.
posted by jocelmeow at 2:16 PM on July 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

A few months ago, in late winter, I was working late in my office. I hadn't noticed any ants on the windowsill, so I placed my water bottle there, neglecting to fold down the straw. A few minutes later, I took an absent swig.

Reader, I drank them.

posted by jjray at 2:25 PM on July 27, 2010 [8 favorites]

I use everything I've learned from the Enderverse to help me justify my wanton crushing of ants.

They are merely drones; each body just another conduit for the Hive Queen. Yes, each squished little body represents a tiny philotic finger withdrawn, but that's not really a big deal. As long as the Hive Queen has more drones, she will continue on as her own entity. It's all good. Squish away.
posted by redsparkler at 2:26 PM on July 27, 2010 [4 favorites]

I fucking love ants.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:27 PM on July 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

I fucking love the writing (author is one Tom Junod).
posted by Jody Tresidder at 2:31 PM on July 27, 2010 [6 favorites]

the ants in your house are actually emissaries of the enormous teeming brain in your backyard

Oh, God. I bought Terro a few weeks ago but have been all "Hmm, yeah, got to get around to putting those outside where I saw those ant trails" since. Off I go to fulfill its function. Thanks for the timely post!
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 2:32 PM on July 27, 2010

Errrghashhhhhhhh .... I'll deal with almost any insect in my house, but ants are guaranteed to send me on a murderous rampage. I'll kill the damn things with my bare hands if I have to, and I have. I've got a heavy-duty bait station in the front yard, and I'm about to add one to the back yard, even though the first one is said to cover a lot much bigger than the one our house is on. Don't care. Ants must die.

I think this hatred goes back to my childhood, when a black ant crawled up my nose. I've been getting back at the damn things every since.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 2:33 PM on July 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

We are currently battling an invasion. Get up in the morning, turn on the coffee pot, kill a zillion ants, drink coffee, kill ants, feed the cats, kill ants, etc. We have tried to encourage the cats to eat ants, but they just give us a look like "What? I don't understand English. What?"
posted by rtha at 2:38 PM on July 27, 2010 [11 favorites]

I love ants because they are the only species I can kill and feel neither remorse nor hate. They are not so much living entities as physical law. Killing one does not diminish the law, no more than throwing something spits in the face of gravity. Gravity is. It doesn't care. Same with ants.
posted by Bobicus at 2:42 PM on July 27, 2010 [7 favorites]

I found out that to E. O. Wilson there is no such thing as an ant problem; there is only the opportunity for study.

That's my favorite entomological Yoda for you.
posted by Panjandrum at 2:46 PM on July 27, 2010 [3 favorites]

I like those three careful, close-up portraits of different ants that are used to illustrate the article. They do a good deal to show how distinctive these amazing creatures are, and how warm and friendly they appear when you actually get up close and look them in the eyes.
posted by koeselitz at 2:46 PM on July 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

This is the best and cheapest solution I have found. You can kill the ones on the trail all you want, but until they take it back to the nest your battle will be futile.
posted by Big_B at 2:49 PM on July 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

Far from setting a good example for his daughter, I think this is very irresponsible. There's certainly such a thing as being too much of a cleanliness freak and stomping every single bug you see is not a good thing.

Refusing to allow your kid live in a place where ants pour out of the faucet instead of water every time you try to take a bath is not such a case. What he calls "setting a good example" I call "being a bad parent".
posted by Justinian at 2:50 PM on July 27, 2010

I came home one day and found a line of ants crawling through a gap in the weather stripping of my front door, down the hall, to the kitchen, up to the counter all to get a bit of a spilled drink I had failed to clean up the night before. This was the greatest threat to humanity the world had ever experienced and I fell to the ground blubbering incoherently about this cruel twist of fate that had been thrust upon me.

But holy crap this dude!

I survived by cleaning up the spill, spraying down the entire path and a huge swath of space outside my front door with spray-on ant poison and they haven't been back. Global crisis averted. But holy crap this dude!
posted by bfootdav at 2:54 PM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Fuckin' ants. We've been dealing with a very mild cycle of incursions—in my office, this spring, and then lately in the kitchen—and it hasn't gotten out of hand and some poison outside has knocked down the tiny peaks of activity so I don't really have a lot to complain about.

But it's really fucking unnerving, having the little shits just wander out of this or that of the thousands of little gaps in the walls that I am now acutely aware of and contemplate in my worse moments going after with a tube of caulk and damn the consequences. I don't know how it is that they unsettle me like they do, but the do. I feel like I've gotten more zen about it over the last couple months, but that's a matter of degrees and it still bugs the shit out of me when, after a few days of seeing nothing, there's a dozen of them suddenly on the kitchen counter because I didn't clean up a little bit of syrup the night before.

I'm not sympathetic about bugs in general—I squash spiders in the house, I just beat a wasp to a pulp with a magazine yesterday just to be sure—but most of them show up one at a time and don't try to set up camps. Fucking ants started a union.
posted by cortex at 2:56 PM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Eh, gonna mosey right past the good parent/bad parent drivebys and go straight to saying that ants are hateful minions of Satan. We have fire ants here in Texas, which are right bastards (well, bitches, since they're mostly female) and that's bad enough, but now they've got those wiring-eating Rasberry crazy ants down in Houston that are probably going to set off a nuclear war and kill us all.

Yeah, and your exterminator won't save you:

Jason Meyers, a Texas A&M University entomology doctoral candidate who has studied the ants, said no one is certain where they came from. What is known, though, is that their range rapidly is expanding. Two poisons — Termidor and Top Choice — are available to exterminators, but unless a sufficient "buffer zone" is established around an infested property, additional ants simply will crawl over the bodies of their fallen comrades.

Rasberry said he treated a half-acre plot with insecticide, returning months later to find the area covered thickly with two inches of dead ants. Living insects teemed on the top layer of insect corpses.

Fucking ants.
posted by emjaybee at 2:57 PM on July 27, 2010 [4 favorites]

If they're in your house in the US, they're 'US Ants'... I'm only half kidding)

I suspect that the Hive Mind does not respect YOUR PUNY HUMAN NATION-STATES.
posted by AdamCSnider at 2:57 PM on July 27, 2010 [4 favorites]

Aaaauggh, ANTS! Since June, we've been battling colonies of what appear to be three different species of ants in our apartment. At first, I had some hope that there would be colony wars, leaving all of them weaker for our extermination attempts, but no. There appears to be an ant detente in effect. And, like rtha, the best resistance our cats can muster, even when ants are devouring the food right under their noses, is a mild "huh..." look. Jesus, one morning I'm going to wake up to see the tip of one of the cat's tails disappearing into a crack in the floor. I hate those ant fuckers, but I have to hand it to them, they're making a very credible argument for being the dominant life form in our apartment.
posted by otolith at 3:07 PM on July 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

That was kind of my point Adam, the Hive Mind does indeed respond to 'Adjective Noun' nomenclature.

"Africanized Bees"?

The ants don't respect the boundaries, but the human psyche is demonstrably influenced by similar whistles.

As a UK resident, I've become somewhat inured to tabloid journalism, but I recogniz(s)e it when I see it.
posted by vectr at 3:07 PM on July 27, 2010

additional ants simply will crawl over the bodies of their fallen comrades

They are the perfect soldiers.
posted by adamdschneider at 3:11 PM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

I wrote this up back in 2002 as a caving trip report from Aquismon Mexico. It was one of the more memorable experiences of my life, so far:

Ants. In Spanish, Hormigas. We tend to think of them as pesky little critters that sometimes get into the sugar. Oh, sure there's fire ants. Step in a nest of them and stand there for a minute, and you're in a world of hurt. But fire ants don't roam the land in swarms, denuding the landscape of all living creatures within the wide swath of their path. No, that in the exclusive domain of the Army Ant.

"Lac," in Huastecan, we learned the next day, but Hormigas Militar was the best we could do with our limited Spanish vocabulary while gesticulating wildly, trying to explain to the locals just what had gone on in our campground the night before.

Imagine, if you will, six gringos jumping up and down, stamping their feet, running around with flashlights in the new-moon darkness shouting random phrases of surprise and dismay, and you'll have a clear enough picture of the scene as it began. Mark was the first to notice, as he wandered off into the vanguard of the storm before they had completely engulfed us. We'd been sitting serenely around our little campfire for a good while when he decided he needed something from his tent. "Man, there's a bunch of ants over here." was the first thing the rest of us heard, followed by "Shit! They're all in my tent" (Lesson one, dear gringos, keep your tent zipped up tight.) followed by "Shit! They're everywhere! Thousands of them!" This of course, got the rest of us up on our feet to see what all the excitement was about. "Whoa! Geez, look at all of em." was the first thing out of Jerry's mouth, followed pretty quickly by "Oh shit! They're over here too!" About this time, I decided to get up from my comfy chair and see what all the hubbub was about. I grabbed my headlamp and headed over to where Jerry and Ron were now busily exclaiming and doing a little "they're on me" dance and sure enough, all our caving gear, ropes, drills, tubs of carbide, etc. which was gathered in a pile under a little rain fly had turned to an undulating mass of black. "Where the hell are they coming from?" I wondered. I started to look around the periphery of the swarm as Ron headed for his truck to fetch a camera so he could get some shots of Mark furiously sweeping ants out of his tent. Mark at least had come prepared. His Taj Mahal-sized tent had all the comforts of home, including a full sized broom, which was coming in really handy right about then.

It was about this time that Mark made a couple of observations-- one was that his tent was also full of other hapless bugs who were fleeing ahead of the marauding invaders and the other was that they seemed to be underneath everything and weren't climbing up at all. He'd sweep for a bit, then pick something up and say "Oh, shit! There's a thousand more ants under here," followed by a fresh frenzy of sweeping and foot-stamping, until he'd brought that spot under control, whereupon he'd move something else and repeat the process. "They're getting under everything! Shit Aaahh." Stamp, stamp!

While the emergency tent-decontamination was underway, Jerry, Enora, Ben and I had been wandering about the campground trying to find the edges of the swarm, and figure out where they were coming from and what general direction they were moving in. What we found were several wide trails of streaming ants, moving more or less from lower ground to higher ground across the front third of the area we'd occupied between two pastures. There were two ant superhighways, one going under, and one emerging from underneath Mark's tent, both at least three to four inches wide. Another was moving right along a rain-diversion trench he'd dug behind his tent. Another large streaming trail had begun to form in front of Ben's tent and was moving through the gear tent, where formerly, they'd been just swarming in every direction. We began at that point to get a picture of the Modus Operandi of the invaders. The apparently have a roving swarm which seems almost directionless, but which really moves as a front, and they overwhelm whatever insects they happen upon in the 20-30-foot-wide front. Behind the front come the columns, 2, 3, 4 inches wide. And they come, and they come.

While the sweeping was winding down in Mark's tent, Ron had determined that a good spray of Off would generally deter them from moving in a certain direction, so those of us who hadn't had our tents overrun yet, proceeded to spray a nice, fat line of off around them. We retired to the relative safety of the campfire for a while until we noticed that the swarm had taken an ominous turn towards the cooking tent. "The food!" We jumped up again and hurriedly carted all our food tubs off to various vehicles, the whole time wondering aloud what good that could possibly do should they decide to mount the vehicles. It was probably futile, but we felt like we were doing something, and as it turned out, they never moved towards the trucks.

We watched from the periphery of the swarm for a good while as they caught and devoured one hapless bug after another. Jerry spotted a 4-legged spider attempting to effect an escape after losing all the legs on one side of his body, and everywhere out ahead of the swarm was a scattering herd of bugs of all sorts doing what they could to get gone before they got et.

After determining finally that they really weren't getting into the shut tents, Mark decided he'd had enough excitement and went to sleep even though a large quantity of ants was still moving under his in giant 4 inch swaths.

Those of us still around the fire got a good laugh watching him in silhouette shining his light in all the corners again and again. Ben decamped to his Jeep, as his tent, although shut, was still surrounded by the beasts, and he didn't think he could even get to it.

By then, a couple hours had passed, and there seemed to be no end in sight. Jerry and I sat up for a while after everyone else had decided it was safe to go to sleep (Jerry and Enora's tent as well as mine seemed to be outside of their path, Ben and Ron were sleeping in vehicles, and Mark was there in the thick of them, with the Ant Superhighway going right under his tent as he slept) and just sort of marveled at the phenomenon. There were interesting things we'd noticed while watching the passing of the swarm unfold. We could actually hear them where the swarm was sufficiently dense-- a sort of crackling, rustling noise as they walked through the grass and leaves. That gave a particularly ominous feeling, in a Hitchcock movie sort of way. These weren't (thank god) the kind of Army Ants that denude absolutely everything, like the Brazilian Leaf-Cutter Army Ants you see on the Discovery Channel on T.V. They seemed to be only interested in insects, and ignored the bits of food we tossed in to the swarm out of curiosity. They also stayed on the ground, except for one tree that they climbed. Although they bit, they didn't leave a stinging welt, like a fire ant, which is a good thing, because we all got bit a lot. They didn't go over anything that they could go under. They gathered in dense numbers under stuff, like ice chests or rocks that were laying on the surface, and they seemed to move mostly uphill.

When we got up the next morning, they were entirely gone. Thursday was thanksgiving, and we had invited Juan Casillo and family to Thanksgiving dinner at our camp, as a way of paying them back for their generosity. That evening, after dinner, we tried our best to explain what had befallen us the previous night, and we managed to glean a bit of information between slugs of "Caña," the potent sugar-cane hooch which the natives bootleg up in the hills. They are indeed pretty common, and they pour gasoline around their houses to keep them out when they swarm. What did they do before gasoline? I have no idea. Carlos explained in his broken English that the Army Ants always precede a rain. Sure enough, late Thursday night, it came, just like he said, just in time to wash away the second invasion, as it was beginning. We had barely enough time to jump up and shout "Hormigas!" before the sky opened and carried the pesky buggers away in a brief, but rather effective torrent.
posted by Devils Rancher at 3:13 PM on July 27, 2010 [155 favorites]

Anybody remember Phase IV? That was one trippy ant movie.

Also: I can't believe anything could be worse than bedbugs. Wanna talk about a war? Now that's a fuckin' war.
posted by angrycat at 3:17 PM on July 27, 2010 [5 favorites]

Our house had a terrible Argentinean ant problem for years, streaming across kitchen counters despite every crumb of food sealed in Tupperware, the edge of the bathtub was a little Daytona raceway, we'd find lines of them inexplicably sambaing across the living room carpet. One of my son's first words was "bees!" which he directed at the ants because from his Winnie the Pooh perspective, all swarming things were bees. The biggest gross-out for me was finding ant bodies entombed in ice cubes; they had somehow found a way into the freezer and infested the automatic ice maker. We did the Terro thing, the spraying with Windex thing, we did the Ortho thing and then the Orkin thing and the ants still kept coming.

Then one day I brought home a North American pitcher plant, a Sarracenia. We already had a few Venus fly traps, which dramatically capture and digest a bug now and then but the Sarracenia was different: it was...efficient. The ants quickly found the nectar exuded at the top and steadily marched to their deaths, tumbling one after another down the slick throat of the plant, packing the 18" tall foilage tubes inch by inch until the piles of ants could been seen writhing just below the lips. The Sarr responded to this abundance of fertilizer with an explosion of growth, more hungry tubes shot out of the soil, more ants lined up to die and so this went on for the summer until one day in August no more ants came. The Sarr had eaten them all, or at least eaten so many that the lesson had been taught: stay the hell out of that house.

I now have 200 Sarrs.
posted by jamaro at 3:18 PM on July 27, 2010 [119 favorites]

I read the article but I didn't see anything explaining why he didn't MOVE TO ANOTHER HOUSE. Not to stir shit up (OK... yes, to stir shit up), but I honestly feel like this might verge on child abuse.
posted by naju at 3:19 PM on July 27, 2010

Still, I'd take these guys over bullet ants. Ugh.
posted by pemberkins at 3:21 PM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

There are billions of humans on earth, and trillions upon trillions of ants — an estimated 1.6 million for every human being.

And every spring/summer I do my best to kill my share of them. I'm stupid, blind. Every spring I hope they won't show up. I hope that they will just ignore my house. But no. This is a simple indicator of insanity. They never ignore my house.

I have a Quaker parrot. She is a slob. There is, at any given time, her food on the floor. I sweep constantly. I mop. But she is a genetically sloppy bird. And the pellets that make up the bulk of her food are insect magnets. They are insect heroin. Once I stupidly threw a handful of her pellets out onto the sidewalk in front of my home. To feed the sparrows. That evening the sidewalk was swarming with cockroaches. I used an entire can of Raid to kill every one. Then I spent the evening hosing the corpses and uneaten food into the sewer grate (which is no doubt where they came from).

But they don't come into the house. The ants however do.

I'm not afraid of ants or squeamish. As a child I occasionally ate ants. They are very sour. This is due, I found out, to the high concentration of formic acid in their guts.

My elderly mother, on the other hand, lives in the apartment upstairs. And she considers ants a personal insult. Ants in the house means that someone isn't cleaning enough. And since it can't be her...

Luckily my step son is going out with a girl whose father is an exterminator. He sprays and baits for a very reasonable price. But only outside. Because the poison would instantly kill my bird if sprayed inside. I am only willing to go so far. I don't want to mass murder ants or kill my bird. Nor do I want to poison the environment.

But my mother...

Well. I'm just following orders!
posted by Splunge at 3:29 PM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Island off the coast of Indonesia, circa 2000. I've moved into this fantastic bungalow hanging out at the water's edge, with a pair of hammocks for the g/f and I to while away the evenings, after afternoon chess games with the island's fanatical players. Pleasant times. I did note when we moved in that there were termites in the walls, and before leaving on this trip, I'd seen a documentary about ants that detailed termite raids where the ants move in and rob the termites and kill or enslave most of the rest -- leaving just enough for the termite colony to recover. So they ants can do it all over again. Fascinating stuff.

So there we are, reading in our hammocks contentedly one evening, when my companion nods to the wall of our bungalow and says "Hey, look at that." Well it was a medium-sized river of ants, streaming along the wall, flowing together here and apart there. Interesting, we thought.

Ten minutes later, there were several streams like that. Ten minutes again and we're trying to stem the invasion to absolutely no avail. Another ten minutes and our bags are packed and we're on the veranda, ready to head of into... where? in the night on this island. The walls of our bungalow are black. But it reached its peak shortly thereafter and they dissipated as fast as they'd come. An hour after first sighting them, they were gone.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 3:29 PM on July 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

I am thankful that ants don't provoke the same revulsion in me that flies and roaches do. Nevertheless, I kill them when I see them in my house. Although thankfully all the spiders seem to take care of the problem (maybe by decimating the local aphids).
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:36 PM on July 27, 2010

Nature has a way of dealing with ants that become too powerful. Cordyceps: attack of the killer fungi.
posted by Fizz at 3:43 PM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Fuck off ants.

posted by The Whelk at 3:46 PM on July 27, 2010 [18 favorites]

We* solved the annual invasion by cornering the market in borax-based Terro. And by moving to Pittsburgh.

Hey, now there's a thought. We could just give California to the ants. That would appease and contain them, right? Put a proposition on the ballot in November and let the ants vote, too. There were about 57 million of them in our kitchen alone, and I'll bet they're not swayed by attack ads.

* - (I'm the other half of the "we" referred to here.)
posted by el_lupino at 3:46 PM on July 27, 2010

Hey, now there's a thought. We could just give California to the ants. That would appease and contain them, right? Put a proposition on the ballot in November and let the ants vote, too. There were about 57 million of them in our kitchen alone, and I'll bet they're not swayed by attack ads.

"And I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords. I'd like to remind them that as a trusted TV personality, I can be helpful in rounding up others to toil in their underground sugar caves."
posted by Fizz at 3:55 PM on July 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

I am never sleeping again.

Thanks, ants. Thants.
posted by capnsue at 4:20 PM on July 27, 2010 [4 favorites]

goddamn it whelk!

posted by capnsue at 4:25 PM on July 27, 2010 [4 favorites]

The ants go marching two by two hurrah, hurrah,
The ants go marching two by two hurrah!

The ants go marching two by two
The little one stops to crush your pathetic bourgeoisie morality under an inexorable tide of hungry soldiers,
And they all go marching down, and around to get out of the rain.

I need to work on the meter I think.
posted by Grimgrin at 4:34 PM on July 27, 2010 [13 favorites]

Ants: something MetaFilter hates worse than geese.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:44 PM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Mr. Internet Tough Guy, here. I read the article/posted in the thread right before leaving work to drive home. I had imaginary ants crawling on me in the car the whole way. yeesh. Still kinda itchy.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: If the ants ever harness fire, we are well and truly fucked.
posted by Devils Rancher at 4:47 PM on July 27, 2010

Ants: something MetaFilter hates worse than geese.

Fucking hipster geese ants!
posted by Devils Rancher at 4:54 PM on July 27, 2010 [8 favorites]

My wife and I had just moved into our new home and had seen a few ants here and there. We'd been putting out some baits and doing some minor efforts to stop them, but it was just a few ants. My father comes to visit and goes upstairs to take his evening shower. He comes downstairs and says son did you know you have and ant problem. I say, yeah I know just a few though they won't eat you. He says I think you should come up here. So I go upstairs and the whole shower is swarming with them. Millions of ants. The walls are black, it's like a horror show.

That's when we hired the professional exterminator. Problem solved.
posted by humanfont at 5:09 PM on July 27, 2010

Fifty million Argentine ants, and not a single ONE of 'em doing the tango? Or grilling a delicious steak?

Those ain't no Argentine ants.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:12 PM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

The army ant story reminds me of how, in Guyana, when there's an army ant front coming towards your house, you pack up the food and the kids and leave. Let them come through your home; they'll get rid of every single cockroach, spider, scorpion, snake, bats... every living thing will be cleaned out and you go back to a nice clean home. I think some people even encourage them to come through.
posted by The otter lady at 5:21 PM on July 27, 2010 [4 favorites]

I really can't bring myself to read anything by Tom Junod ever since he wrote a partly fictional profile of Michael Stipe. Why am I supposed to believe what he writes now?

(I did make an exception for The Falling Man, his very sad, very excellent post-9/11 story.)

Oh, right, this is about ants. Dave Davies interviewed the entomologist Mark Moffett (he studied under E.O. Wilson) on Fresh Air last month. Interesting stuff.
posted by purpleclover at 5:33 PM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

For you Californians (and possibly others) the best resource I've come across for pest advice is the integrated pest management program. It'll give step by step instructions on how to identify and deal with whatever's giving you trouble. It got my Argentine ant population out of the house!
posted by estelahe at 5:36 PM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

I read the article but I didn't see anything explaining why he didn't MOVE TO ANOTHER HOUSE. Not to stir shit up (OK... yes, to stir shit up), but I honestly feel like this might verge on child abuse.

Seriously. If he's not exaggerating, that house is the god damn Amityville Horror. Send the bank the keys, get someone to cosign on an apartment for you, anything, just run. They'll eat her bite by bite.
posted by Countess Elena at 5:55 PM on July 27, 2010

We have a no pesticide rule at our house too, and generally, I do try to just put bugs back outside rather than killing them (unless they are especially dangerous or poisonous and harmless spiders get to stay indoors), but I have always known I would have a limit on what I would tolerate as far as bug population in my home. My limit is far lower than what these people experienced, and I'm sorry if they think it sets a bad example for children, but if there were gazillions of ants in my house, I would be out in the yard liberally spreading whatever it would be that would kill the nest. I don't even think I'd feel bad about it.
posted by Orb at 6:02 PM on July 27, 2010

Oh wait, I have another ant story! We lived in this shitty rent house for a year, paying an extortionate rent to a dickwad company that would only accept fucking money orders to pay rent with, a company that never, ever fixed anything. And lots of shit was broken. Like the lock on our garage. Anyway.

We had a sugar ant problem, tried everything--those fuckers are hard to kill. Had to keep all non-canned food in the fridge. Called up the landlord said, look, we're moving out soon but your next renters are going to have a problem, you should probably exterminate before you rent again, cause these ants are eating the house.

Asshole said "Ants? It's Texas! Everybody has ants!"

Contrast with the current landlord who has w/out complaint gotten rid of squirrels and two carpenter ant invasions, and fixed our fence...etc. Still in Texas, just not renting from assholes who think ants in your food is just something you live with.
posted by emjaybee at 6:51 PM on July 27, 2010

Someone linked me this article earlier today, and I couldn't NOT read it due to equal parts fascination and horror. What a terrible life he describes, my skin is crawling just thinking about it now!

But then I have an ant phobia after falling from a tree into a gigantic ant hill as a kid of about 12. I was covered in ants from head to toe - in my ears, in my hair, in my nose... I have never before or since run so fast as when I ran the half mile or so to the ocean - jumping in fully clothed and then spending half an hour in tears trying to get them out of my hair... Decades later, it still makes me twitch just thinking about it.
posted by gemmy at 6:51 PM on July 27, 2010 [6 favorites]

Not the same insect, but something I translated from Czech once upon a time still rings true. The "aimless and repulsive haste" is my favorite bit.


You wretched, worthless, ugly little monster, who nibbles away my tender seedlings and gobbles my scarcely-emerged sprouts, you who work your way into every corner of my house in your aimless and repulsive haste, hide under my blankets and swim in my drinking glass; you wriggling little beast, snapping at me with your pincers, I beg you--what on earth are you good for? What purpose do you serve? What contribution do you make? Is there any creature under the sun more worthless than you?

"I'm not useless, sir; I have accomplished something immeasurably useful during my lifetime."

And what exactly have you accomplished, Mr. Earwig?

"I had lots of children."

Karel Čapek, fr. Aesop the Gardener,
posted by Earthtopus at 6:54 PM on July 27, 2010 [8 favorites]

I now have 200 Sarrs.

How are you fighting them back?
posted by codswallop at 7:18 PM on July 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

I am reminded of a science fiction novel about conquering a planet with hostile, insectoid aliens, seemingly mindless, that the soldiers referred to as "ants."
"You're a strange one, Felix. What are you doing here anyway?"

Felix lifted his helmet and met her gaze as best he could through their two face screens. "Fighting ants," he replied evenly.

"And what else," Lohman wanted to know.

"Fearing ants," he added.
Armor, John Steakley
posted by adipocere at 7:42 PM on July 27, 2010 [3 favorites]

How are you fighting them back?

Cane toads.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:51 PM on July 27, 2010 [3 favorites]

Gonna have Sandking nightmares again.
posted by The otter lady at 8:02 PM on July 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

Anybody remember Phase IV? That was one trippy ant movie.

posted by angrycat at 3:17 PM on July 27 [1 favorite +] [!]

I watched Phase IV on TV when I was about 7. All night long I had nightmares of ants crawling over my body, on my face, in my nose... In my sleep, I'd stuck my fingers in my nostrils and tried to scrach them out. Woke up to get ready for school and my face had stuck to my pillow and my hair matted from all the blood.

[still, it's a great and much over-looked 70's sci-fi movie that I recommend - just not for 7 year olds before bedtime]
posted by Auden at 8:32 PM on July 27, 2010

I just live with regular ants. I use to loathe having ants in the kitchen, until one day my boyf pointed out a little army of them moving a dead fly across the floor. I was absolutely fascinated! I'd never thought of ants as little hunters or workers...anyway I sat there for a long while watching them. Now I kind of admire them, plus they keep my kitchen cleanliness in check too:)
posted by tokidoki at 8:36 PM on July 27, 2010

It has a ready source of food outside your house in the "honeydew" — the sweet anal effusions — of sap-eating pests like aphids

Appositive of the year?
posted by danb at 10:05 PM on July 27, 2010

Okay, so, I just read Devils Rancher's comment, and I have to say, that, if I were in that situation, I would have screamed, run into the jungle, and climbed the tallest tree I could find. I would probably have died of exposure. I am never, ever going to the jungle, ever.
posted by cthuljew at 10:15 PM on July 27, 2010

The Sarr had eaten them all, or at least eaten so many that the lesson had been taught: stay the hell out of that house.

Holy cow, jamaro. When we moved into our house three years ago, there were ant trap things all over the place, and I found myself thinking "well, is this going to be a problem?" and it never was.

When we moved in we brought a Sarracenia with us from the old house. Plopped it outside by the backdoor because that seemed like a good place for it. I like it because it has really unusual blossoms, but come to think of it, I've never seen a single ant inside the house.

I'd never made the connection until right now.
posted by ambrosia at 10:31 PM on July 27, 2010

Ants: something MetaFilter hates worse than geese.

Fucking hipster geese ants!

We feed the ants to the geese, the geese to the hipsters, and in exchange the hipsters are our carbon-neutral pedicab slaves, everybody wins!
posted by The Whelk at 11:36 PM on July 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

dead gecko ...

You know, watching that I got the feeling that there are lots of worse ways to handle 'disposal' when I'm done. After I 'check out', once the medicos have taken out anything useful, that seems like a kind of neat way to handle the rest of the 'clean up'.

(But probably better not to let my kids post it on YouTube ...)
posted by woodblock100 at 11:47 PM on July 27, 2010

this is why you live in cold climates. sure, it's cold and there's snow, but there aren't crazy ant populations, scorpions, snakes, killer spiders, etc.

(and this article just brought back memories of when we had an ant infestation when i was a kid and they were IN MY BED.) thanks metafilter.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 2:13 AM on July 28, 2010

Ants vs. Live Crab [corrected link, scene from BBC's Natural World - Ant Attack]
posted by Auden at 2:47 AM on July 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

i am a myrmecophobe. i have an deep, irrational fear of ants. though, i actually think it's not all that irrational. i mean - supercolonies, people!

this much i know: ants will inherit the earth.

gemmy, i had a very similar experience as a 5 year old: i got covered, entirely, in a swarm of little black ants. the worst part? i was already afraid of 'em. yet, though i fear them - perhaps because i fear them - i also respect them. yeah, i have a great fascination for the ant. what a marvelous creature!

i even feel a strange affection towards ants - that is, until i get a few on me. and then? it's an utter meltdown into screaming, weeping fantods.

phase IV is one of my favorite movies. it's a particularly awesome one to watch on thanksgiving!

i haven't read that article yet. i have to work up the courage.
posted by lapolla at 3:53 AM on July 28, 2010

oh man, that poor crab
i wanted to hand it a gun so it could blow its brains out before being eaten
posted by angrycat at 5:02 AM on July 28, 2010 [7 favorites]

I can't help but mentally juxtapose the author's comment early in the article

glass cleaner, which, since we were averse to pesticides, was our preferred poison

with this one from near the end

When I warned them of what they might find — the horror they might uncover — they smiled and said, "We spray." And so they did. Before they destroyed the house in order to save it, they poisoned the house in order to destroy it.

and find myself left wondering - what if he'd, you know, overcome his aversion to pesticides earlier? Lesser of two weavils, and all that ...
posted by kcds at 5:03 AM on July 28, 2010

I spent four months working in the Amazon studying some very adorable monkeys earlier this year. When I left New Hampshire for Peru, I was nervous about the poisonous snakes ... the wasps ... the jaguars ... the caimans ... but I gave no thought to the ants. While my ant stories aren't quite of the "Ants will eat my daughter" variety, they're certainly the stuff of my nightmares.

Like Devils Rancher, I have an army ant story. One of the things we were doing with the monkeys was trapping them, taking some genetic data, giving some radio collars, and giving the rest identifying bead collars. To expedite the process, we had a set up that we'd do in the field involving finding four optimally placed trees from which we could suspend a mosquito net over a tarp, hanging a rain tarp over that setup, and getting all of the materials we'd need set out in the exact order that we'd need them. On this particular day, we KNEW we were going to get this group. It was going to be the culmination of two months of baiting a wire cage with increasing rotten bananas every day, and it'd be great! We showed up and, sure enough, our monkeys were in the area! Me and another field assistant went to work setting up at a perfect location right on one of the trails... this was great and we had it set up very quickly. And! The first of the four monkeys in the group went in. Within 5 minutes, the whole group was ready for us to process. And then we saw the first of the army ants headed our way.

We wrapped up the cage with the trapped monkeys in a tarp to keep the ants from getting in and pulling them apart. And we packed up our whole setup as the ants got closer - a literal river of ants, maybe 10 inches wide and stretching on and on and on. We moved down the trail about 100 meters, figuring that'd give us a good buffer zone. Close to panic (me and the other field assistant did NOT like army ants - I'd had a colony move into my boots over night once and she helped me clean it out the next morning), we got the first set of monkeys all set only to hear the principal investigator say "Oh, shit." So we packed everything up again and moved again - 200 meters this time - and finished processing the group As Quickly As Possible. Thinking about that stream still makes me feel all twitchy.

One place my monkeys particularly enjoyed hanging out in was a big swamp. We'd skirt the edges of the water, giving it mistrustful looks and nervously looking down in anticipation of an anaconda or something. Maybe the second time we watched the monkeys in The Swamp, I tripped and put my hand out to catch myself on the nearby tree. About 10 seconds later, my hand was covered in these awful red ants. They would latch on to you and left huge welts, and pulling them off inevitably left some pincers embedded in your skin. The worst day with THOSE ants was the day I didn't realize I was leaning against one of their trees (they're symbiotic with the tree, protecting the trees from marauding primatologists who want to steady themselves and also from cuter and furrier things that want to eat the leaves or fruit, while the ants get a sweet hangout spot and access to those of us who miss out on the fact that every single one of those trees is literally swarming with ants). They got in my backpack, on my binocular straps, in my bandana and thus trapped in my hair. I was pulling them off of my stomach for a good hour or so after I FREAKED OUT and completely lost track of the monkeys.

The kind of ant that struck the most fear into all of us was the Bullet Ant, or Isoula - genus Paraponera, the worst kind of ant EVER. About 3/4 of an inch long, the third most abundant species of ant in some parts of some neotropical forests, with the most painful insect sting in the world (yes, someone measures that), there is NOTHING worse than feeling something crawling on your face, brushing it away, and seeing a bullet ant fly off. Except for when they don't get brushed off and instead sting you.

The worst thing I saw in the four months I was in the rainforest involved a bullet ant and a tiny anole lizard, maybe 3 inches long. I saw weird movement on the forest floor and looked down at this lizard writhing beneath a leaf. Perplexed, I picked up a little stick and brushed the leaf off of the anole - and there was a bullet ant with its pincers lodged in the anole's neck. And it was stabbing its stinger (yep, they pinch and they have stingers, too) into the anole's stomach over and over and over. It was awful. Me and the other field assistant completely lost our scientific objectivity and tried to pry the ant out of the anole, but weren't sure how to do so without getting stabbed ourselves. Soon the anole stopped moving, and five or six other bullet ants came in to help carry it away. God, that was awful.

I never really gave much thought to ants before I went to the Amazon. They were annoying and the big carpenter ants were pretty gross, but I had no intentions of violence towards them. Now? I will squish on site!!!!
posted by ChuraChura at 5:37 AM on July 28, 2010 [10 favorites]

I've found that cinnamon sprinkled in the gaps where the ants are making their entrance into the house really DOES help keep them away. I had an invasion once and didn't want to do anything poisonous out of fear for accidentally poisoning the cat - liberal applications of cinnamon really did keep things at bay.

This is, of course, only for your smaller invasions. I think in the case of a full on insurgency, you just have to move.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:50 AM on July 28, 2010

And it was stabbing its stinger (yep, they pinch and they have stingers, too) into the anole's stomach over and over and over.

RUN AWAY! RUN AWAY!! *heebies*
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:52 AM on July 28, 2010

Poured myself some coffee a little while ago (killed some ants) and sat down and put my laptop on my lap. Two ants that had hitched a ride on my sweatshirt strolled across my screen. DIE DIE DIE.
posted by rtha at 6:32 AM on July 28, 2010

...a 4-legged spider attempting to effect an escape after losing all the legs on one side of his body...

I liked possessing the spider in SimAnt back in the day. Then when they start swarming you, just enable the frickin' laser beam on your forehead. pew pew pew!
posted by Evilspork at 8:28 AM on July 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

I would tell my tale of ant-related woe (in combination with two 30 FOOT TALL TREES FULL OF APHIDS), but I think I'd just end up foaming at the mouth and/or sobbing uncontrollably.

I'll just say this: ants sure do love themselves some cat food.
posted by epersonae at 8:30 AM on July 28, 2010

If the ominous prediction of this post's title is true--and all evidence thus far indicates that it is--I suggest we just stop right here. Please?
posted by dust of the stars at 8:45 AM on July 28, 2010

So maybe I shouldn't tell you about dorylus, the African Driver Ant, colonies of which can reach 22 million members, columns of which kill anything slow enough to be caught in their path-- there are records of horses left tethered, found picked to the bone after a column of Driver Ants has gone by. Dorylus has been known to kill people, and it is reported (although I'm unable to find a verifiable source) that the human body can be skeletonized (this is the term used-- did you know there was reason for the word 'skeletonize' to exist?) in about four hours.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:19 AM on July 28, 2010

I fucking love ants.
posted by shakespeherian

Y hello thar.

Fuck off ants.
posted by The Whelk

I see how it's going to be.

I've been killing carpenter ants in my house all summer. The irony! It stings!
posted by workerant at 11:43 AM on July 28, 2010 [4 favorites]

The Whelk and I form a dialectic.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:48 AM on July 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

Shakesperian, let me ask you a few questions.

1. Tell me everything that comes to mind when you think about sugar.

2. A child shows you his ant farm and how they dance when he puts hydrogen peroxide on them. What do you do?

3. There is a turtle lying on its back in the desert. Are you devouring it? Why aren't you devouring it Shakesperian?
posted by The Whelk at 11:51 AM on July 28, 2010

1 - 3. Bruce Campbell
posted by shakespeherian at 12:28 PM on July 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

I lived in a house that had irregular ant invasions from the roof space down into the bedrooms. Each time, about a day or two before they started coming through the ceiling, I could smell the little bastards. I'm not kidding. It wasn't an unpleasant odor and I don't think I could describe it now. But nothing would drive primal fear into my brain worse than that subtle detection.
posted by Cheminatrix at 1:49 PM on July 28, 2010

talcum powder also makes a good barrier. we live in the SW desert and by sprinkling it outside where house meets ground it lets em know its not the voids they're looking for
posted by Fupped Duck at 5:54 PM on July 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

FWIW, my roach raising pal Allegra tells me that ants and roaches are anatural enemies, and your house will generally be colonized by one or the other.
posted by mollymayhem at 9:03 PM on July 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

For a year, I lived in an apartment building with some kind of ant infestation in the attic. They would enter my living room through a tiny hole in the ceiling. I favoured the brute force method: spray a whole can of poison into the hole and wait. I don't know whether the torrent of live ants or dead ants pouring onto my living room floor was creepier. Fortunately, after many months of slaughter, my lease was up and I moved the hell out of there.
posted by neushoorn at 12:20 AM on July 29, 2010

Damnit. Reading the stories here makes me itch. I look down, thinking there's an ant. There's nothing there.

I keep reading. It's fascinating. And horrifying. And itchy.
posted by WalterMitty at 11:19 AM on July 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

we used to have annual invasions of those big black carpenter ants in our Ohio farmhouse when I was little. Absolutely nothing budged them either. The cats were worse than useless, and the sight of one (or more) swimming in my drinking glass used to send my 7-year-old self into a fit of the shrieking fantods.

mollymayhem, my (biologist) dad used to tell me that mice and roaches are also mutually exclusive house pests. Which somehow never made me feel better whilst living in the roach-infested slums of my young adulthood.

gee, now there's a happy choice of vermin. mice, roaches or ants: choose one. :P

Cheminatrix: you're not imagining things, I've smelt them myself. Ants in sufficient quantity have a very distinctive odour; I believe it's due to the formic acid. I think of it as sorta lemony-peppery myself, with a hint of red spice (i.e. cinnamon/clove). Not unpleasant in and of itself, but indeed it does eloquently relay to one's hindbrain an unmistakable "PISS OFF PATHETIC HUMAN SCUM, THE ANTS'RE GONNA EAT YOU!!!" species of primitive code.

the huge population of flickers and bluejays in our suburban neighbourhood are (fortunately, and so far) pure avian death on ants. The mister and I were out on a walk just the other evening, and he was like "wtf is that crazy bird DOING?" It was a flicker, doing an OMGANTS!! dance in the middle of the sidewalk in front of us. I was like "ah, that's a flicker, and he's anting". Sure enough, when we strolled up to that particular bit of sidewalk (the flicker buggered off into a nearby bush), there was a PILE of ants seething out of the crack. The minute we strolled past the horde, the flicker jumped right back into it. Hopefully he invited all his buddies to the picnic.
posted by lonefrontranger at 2:28 PM on July 29, 2010

ack, ack, ack! How did I miss this thread earlier? As I was reading just now I kept feeling something tickling the underside of my leg, and thought it must just be my imagination, but no. Of course it was yes indeed an ant. The other day I went to water the plants in the courtyard, and immediately had an ant in my ear. In. Like, what if I hadn't gotten it right away? It would just be wandering down my ear canal, ladidaladida?

I wonder if jamaro's Sarracena will grow in Greece?

I did see a scary-big stream of ants marching straight through my bedroom the other day, and, afraid to use pesticide because of the dog, I grabbed what I thought was a citrus-based anti-mosquito body spray for pets and drenched the section where they were entering under the French doors. Later I saw that it was not the mosquito spray after all, but a "Keep Off" spray meant to repel cats and dogs (purchased to discourage the neighbor's cat from the chair cushions on our terrace, because he freaks out when the dog walks out there, and I don't want him scratching her)

The ants disappeared immediately. o_0 The active ingredient is methyl nonyl ketone, and I guess it's loathsome to more than cats and dogs. My dog was pretty disgusted with this turn of events, needless to say. Her compulsion to stay beside me at all times ultimately overcame her "ew, ew, ew" reflex, and she did sleep beside the bed that night, as usual, but stayed out of the room otherwise.
posted by taz at 2:59 AM on July 30, 2010

I would favorite this but I don't want to encourage this sort of post.
posted by toodleydoodley at 7:37 AM on July 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

I wonder if jamaro's Sarracena will grow in Greece?

They should; they are flourishing out in my yard and this area of California is always described as having a Mediterranean climate. Sarrs just need sun and low mineral-content water (they are bog plants, keep their roots wet). And lots and lots of things to eat. Mine are currently digesting the neighborhood yellowjackets that thought they were showing up for a BBQ. Oopsies.
posted by jamaro at 10:04 AM on July 30, 2010

Poor fuckin' crab.
posted by turgid dahlia at 9:43 AM on July 31, 2010

ChuraChura, your story about the bullet ant has led me to the most horrible thing I have ever read:
The Satere-Mawe people of Brazil use intentional bullet ant stings as part of their initiation rites to become a warrior. The ants are first rendered unconscious by submerging them in a natural sedative and then hundreds of them are woven into a glove made out of leaves (which resembles a large oven mitt), stinger facing inward. When the ants regain consciousness, a boy slips the glove onto his hand. The goal of this initiation rite is to keep the glove on for a full ten minutes. When finished, the boy's hand and part of his arm are temporarily paralyzed because of the ant venom, and he may shake uncontrollably for days. The only "protection" provided is a coating of charcoal on the hands, supposedly to confuse the ants and inhibit their stinging. To fully complete the initiation, however, the boys must go through the ordeal a total of 20 times over the course of several months or even years.
There's a YouTube video of the ritual, which I will decline to view.
posted by Partial Law at 8:33 AM on August 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

i'm torn about whether this is irrelevant or obligatory, but E. O. Wilson does awe-inspiring fiction on ants. as this thread regards the terror ants can instill in humans, perhaps this sheds light on the terror inspire within themselves.
Lamentation and hope were mingled among the Trailhead inhabitants. The ants were a doomed people in a besieged city. Their unity of purpose was gone, their social machinery halted. No foraging, no cleaning and feeding of larvae, no queen for them to rally around. The order of the colony was dissolving. Out there, indomitable and waiting, were the hated, filthy, unformicid Streamsiders. Finally, all that the Trailheaders knew was terror, and the existence of a choice—they could fight or run from the horror. There was nothing else left in their collective mind.

Trailhead, by E.O. Wilson (New Yorker).
posted by asymptotic at 12:32 PM on August 4, 2010

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