I kill ants. With extreme prejudice. I hate ants, not that anybody really likes them. As a small child I once had the misfortune of mistakenly choosing an ant hill for a good place to play in the dirt. After that scarring episode, my life’s mission has been the eradication of the species. I’m sure in the natural order of things ants serve a greater purpose than to ruin picnics, but in the wilds only, not the civilized, concrete society of the West. They have no place in our world and therefore must be destroyed. There will be some, well, one anyway, who will call into question my dedication to the cause due to the Peanut Butter Knife Incident, but heed not his claims. Even George S. Patton made a tactical mistake now and again.
One of my duties as de facto assistant building super at my job is the interdiction of ant incursions. I relished the opportunity to further the fight against these vile Formicidae on another front. However, I was disappointed to learn that my arsenal of available weapons was significantly limited. Due to an office policy of non-fragrance, traditional, and most effective, ant control agents were forbidden: no ant sprays. My options were thus limited to a mostly static defense of ant traps. However, I did have at my disposal a secret weapon of sorts. Imported from the Chinese, it looked like a harmless stick of blackboard chalk but was supposedly a poison deadly against ants, but relatively harmless to humans (though the instructions cautioned to keep it away from “baby and old man.” No, that is not a typo.). The idea was to draw a chalk line across known ant invasion routes or around their “hidden lying place” which the armies would then not cross, thus cutting off their points of entry into the facility. I’ll admit I was skeptical at first, but others in the office praised it and I did in fact witness ant scouts approaching the chalk lines and then turning back around and heading the other direction.
Besides this import, I had a few other non-standard implements on hand. A few tricks I learned from my days as a custodial services engineer. Most standard hard surface cleaners–Windex, 409, and such–act as a nerve agent on ant columns, killing any sprayed directly. However, unlike conventional chemical weapons which will continue to kill ants who come into contact with a sprayed surface weeks, sometimes even months later, the cleaners are only effective against ants who are directly exposed.
There were a few instances when it became necessary to breach protocol and resort to conventional, contraband chemicals. Large scale invasions, usually occurring during times of extremely hot or wet weather, required this drastic step, but even then the sprays could only be implemented on the outside of the building or in remote and unoccupied spaces inside, such as utility closets.
For the most part, the combination of traditional traps, hard surface cleaners, and the Chinese made chalk seemed to do a good job of keeping the enemy at bay. After a time, it became necessary to restock the chalk magazine and the only place to find it was the local Asian grocery. Unfortunately our supplier had recently gone out of business. I turned to the Internet to find a new source and discovered some upsetting information. On a number of pest control forums I learned that the ant chalk was in fact illegal in this country, as it was not inspected nor approved by the FDA or any other agency, and was in fact relatively toxic to more than just “baby and old man.” My most effective weapon was snatched away from me. I was defeated. Once again, the bureaucracy had taken away a useful tool to combat evil because it “wasn’t safe.”
Disillusioned, I didn’t know where to turn. I was getting calls on a weekly basis that the ants were massing on the frontiers, no doubt acutely aware that we were virtually powerless to stop them, waiting only for an ironclad casus belli to invade. And so they got it. The winter rains came and the floods of water and insect invaders began to stream into the building. I futilly tried to stem the tide by placing new and more effective traps in strategic locations, but like the marauding Nazi hordes of 1940 bypassing the fortified, bristling, but stationary Maginot Line, the black armies of six legged sugar seekers simply ignored them.
But at the eleventh hour I made a serendipitous discovery. At the local Home Depot to buy more traps, I happened upon a new product that just might make the difference. An ant spray in a non-aerosol spray bottle, that is truly odorless and stain-free. It’s called Hot Shot. With little time for a full battery of battlefield tests, I ran a quick odor experiment and convinced of its nasal neutrality, I put it into immediate action. That was last week. So far it has proved effective. For those responsible for protecting fragrance-free offices, this could be our silver bullet. The ants thought they had the upper hand, that they could not be defeated, and while the war is far over, it is as Winston Churchill once said, “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”