I can't say my partner didn't warn me. It's not that I didn't believe him. I believed, but did not know for myself, though I thought I knew.
Then the morning came when upon opening the pantry door I was confronted with black where white ought to be; movement where ought to be stillness.
Ants! Made frantic by the discovering beam of light from the door opening they ran in all directions. I was semi prepared for this sight (a) having been warned and (b) having had a previous similar discovery some days before but to a much lesser degree. Hence thinking I knew it all. On that first occasion a few ants were found near a bag of sugar, traces of which sugar were on the shelf. How smugly did I move to put a stop to their little game, transferring the sugar to a plastic container and checking the packet of shortbread biscuits for tiny marauders – none were found.
Each following morning my triumph continued as only one or two foolhardy ants were spotted by my vigilant eye and swept up by my merciless hand. So confident was I that chocolate chip cookies were left in their packet, the open top of which was (I thought securely) rolled over in the accustomed way of when I was back in temperate Timaru. Then came the above mentioned morning of rampant black movement and it was clear that this packet was the epicentre of the outlaws' activity. Picking it up with two fingers I conveyed it swiftly across space to the sink, liberally scattering little bodies to all surfaces in between including my hands and arms. May I advise you at this point, not to follow my example? Into the sink went the bag; all over the sink and bench top, under the microwave, up the wall, on to the windowsill went the escaping offenders. I didn't know where to start but figured I'd best forge on so went back to the pantry and its scene of spreading black dots, found another concentration in yet another open packet of sugary biscuits. This packet received the same treatment of transfer to the sink with the same result. They do say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result and perhaps this proves it. Turning on the tap on to the whole "shebang" wasn't terribly smart either as was learned later when scooping the soggy mess out of the sink.
Abandoning the largely futile attempt to stem the various lines of resistance issuing from the sink, I turned my attention to the pantry. Grabbing the "Di-San Pre-wash Stain Remover" from the laundry cupboard, my only form of chemical warfare, I began the spray and wipe operation which really only took up the next half hour. Or 40 minutes.
I resented this workout before breakfast. Feeling thoroughly rattled and seeing teeny fleeing shapes for the rest of the morning convinced me something had to be done and immediately. By the way, the shortbread? Not touched. Is this a good thing? I've chosen to think that the reason must be that they are of low sugar content, not that they lack all nutrition. It has nevertheless taken enjoyment out of them knowing as I bite into them that they're not considered worthy of an ant's desire.
Actions taken in the subsequent warfare included buying an appropriate biscuit storage container, a no-brainer it is to be admitted. The tour de force though was the purchase of Ant Rid and its application. Seriously, is it a fair contest? I couldn't help but feel a tinge of guilt as I put drops of this innocuous-looking ant-attractant upon tin foil scraps which I had laid across my combatants' little routes in and out of the pantry. Us human occupants of this dwelling made ourselves into giant fiends, looming with ghoulish interest over the spectacle of tiny creatures lured to their sweet death; marvelling at the way they gathered at the edges of the droplets to drink, much as animals do at a pool of water.
As if the ant invasion wasn't enough for one day, my partner also discovered a nasty and large cockroach, thankfully outside. Being immediately crushed by his shoe this produced a sickening mess which I insisted be not left on the patio but scraped into the bark garden and the patio flushed with water. What did I see not long after this, when I ventured over for a look (don't ask me why, I was drawn against my will), was my old antagonists the ants, hard at work cleaning up the cockroach remains. Horrid, but commendable effort, chaps.
As I said to my sister in our later telephone dissection of these events, "If it was me that died and fell in the garden, the ants would eat me". In this vision I both justify my murder of ants and also acknowledge that they do perform a necessary and welcome function. I'm a little conflicted towards the presence of ants. Good, bad, what are they? If I could just explain to them, I don't really want to kill them, would just prefer they leave my food alone. My sister passes on the interesting "fact", that ants and cockroaches too do not like bay leaves or cloves. This is information I wish I had possessed before my killing spree.
Now when I open my pantry door not only do I see biscuits protected in their sealed plastic tub, and white shelves unspoiled by moving black specks, but also I smell the faint fragrant scent of bay leaves and cloves. Once again I hold a belief in a fact, but do not know the truth of it, yet.
- © Fairfax NZ News