Wednesday, May 11, 2005

What's Buggin' Me Today

We have ants. Zillions of them. They know about our sugar. My house is the sugar Mecca, and the word is out. I blame the flies. But I suppose if my natural lifespan were just in the neighborhood of 20 days I'd be hard pressed to keep any secrets too.

I watched a lone ant scuttle aimlessly in labrynths around the bathroom floor and thought, sugar ants aren't so bad. Not like fire ants or army ants with their vicious pincers and stingers . Or big, ugly carpenter ants hell-bent on destruction. These little guys just wound up in our house because that's where everybody else was headed, and so they crawl in and out of walls and cupboards just trying to make a living, foraging for crumbs and granules, toting their loot back to the nest.

I wonder if they eat allof the scavenged goods or use some of it for currency.

I wonder if they know about other ant species, and if these little brown ants understand that they are preferable to the meaner ones. Do they learn about other ants the way we learn about various human cultures in social studies classes? Are there schisms and factions? Preferences and prejudices?

Ants--and I imagine a lot of insects--navigate by smell, and their language is chemical. I worry about the ones I flush down the drain, if they're frightened of the dark underworld of our plumbing. But if they don't see the way people see, maybe dark, dank places aren't terrifying to them. But maybe, because they're responding to smells and chemical signals, everything is a threat. Their nervous systems must be a buzzing wreck.

I squish them in paper towels regularly, usually without even a soupcon of guilt. But once in a while, I'll notice one little guy carrying a fallen comrade back to the midden. The body may be heavy, and he may have a good length to travel, and I don't know what they feel, or think. But if an ant is going to the trouble to bury its dead, I'm loathe to enact any further cruelty, and stay my hand.

I'll get him on the next trip.



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