The Last Laugh: Ants in the Kitchen

The lengths some people must go to dispell ants in the kitchen is no laughing matter.
By Josephine Ligon
February/March 1999
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No table top is secure when there are ants in the kitchen.
ILLUSTRATION: FARIDA ZAMAN


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We should stop encouraging them. We should remember that ants are fickle.

Just the other day, I visited friends and I could barely reach the doorbell because they had an inch-wide trail of pepper before the door that was supposed to keep ants away.

Whatever happened to doormats that say, "Welcome"?

I'm not sure, because I didn't have my glasses on, but I think the ants marching around held little placards saying they were going to call in reinforcements from an ant colony with a pepper culture that would eat right through it. Or maybe they said they were negotiating for the pepper to be topped with pork rinds.

It doesn't matter. When ants start carrying signs you know they're serious.

One man I know unloads a box of kosher salt around his sink. He says kosher salt reminds the ants of mountain climbing, and apparently most of them are into it in a big way, because they keep climbing up and down over the chunks and leave his food alone.

Another friend tries to ward them off by putting slices of cucumber all over the place.

There are over three thousand different kinds of ants, and there have been times when I think they all called a convention in my kitchen.

Once I tried to annihilate an army of ants by sticking cloves in every crevice of the house. That got rid of them for one season. However, the very next year those ants developed a taste for cloves. They ate them up like appetizers on the way to raid my cupboards.

Mary Ellen's Best of Helpful Hints suggests using a chalk line to keep the ants away. She doesn't really tell you that it works. She simply tells you to see for yourself.

Heloise says to sprinkle talcum powder about, if you want your crop of ants to disappear.

When you have such an assortment of ants coming to dinner, it's like inviting vegetarians and cattle ranchers to the same spread. You can't please them all or discourage them all.

There's no one thing that will send all ants off to ant heaven, and you can't just put them all into a blender and have them come out with a common appetite.

Some folks say you can pour boiling water over an ant hill, and it's supposed to kill them.

I went and borrowed three more tea kettles from neighbors and boiled water on four burners one day. Then I poured it over ant hills.

The next day, I found all the ants in my part of the country had gathered together to mourn the victims. They had taken up permanent residence in the homes of the deceased.

Of course, for all I know, I had just drowned out the most obvious ant motels and had missed some elegant ant haven in the woods. Ant hills aren't easy to find.

"Go to the ant, O sluggard," says the Bible, Proverbs: 6:6. "Consider her ways and be wise."

They've had us buying ant farms and studying them for years.

We've found out that they greet one another with a pat of their antennae and talk to each other. When I see a whole string of ants on the counter, I figure they must have been exchanging favorable comments on the kind of food we serve.

A young friend who has an ant farm can't see why anyone would try to get rid of ants.

"They're a lot cleaner than Peter is," she said, looking down at her little brother. "Peter never washes his face or his hands or anything. Ants clean their antennae all the time. I'll bet if you don't keep your kitchen clean that an ant wouldn't even want to come in."

I laughed. "You mean if I put enough dirt and jam around, ants wouldn't want to come in?"

Her expression grew wise. "Ants clean and brush themselves with their antennae when they leave, because they know that houses have sticky boys like Peter. It's weird stuff that keeps them away.

"Like what?" I asked.

"Only the ants know," she whispered, going out the door.

Lately I've realized my ants have gone away. It might have had something to do with the fact that about two months ago, I squirted caulk into every crevice I could find.

On the other hand, maybe I better spruce the place up. If ants don't come in, there might be something eerie lurking about.

Perhaps a bit of poison is slowly killing us all. Maybe radioactive dust that only an ant's antennae can discover is filtering in, doing us harm.

Where are those ants that made me know that my kitchen had food in it that was safe to eat?

There's something about ants in the kitchen that gives me peace of mind!


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