Monday, March 28

Pest Protection: Tales of a Tiny Triage

Oh, spring break. What a marvelous vacation from the computer screen you were. Relieved my bloodshot eyes, you did. A huge backlog in blog posts I need to read, you caused. Made me talk like Yoda, you did.

So, you know those little habits you don't think much of, until you hang out with your parents and see the same quirk mirrored in an older version of yourself? Last week, I experienced yet another epiphanous moment of proof that I'm turning into my Mama & Papa Bear: we save bugs.

For as long as my memory stretches, I've rarely been able to talk my conscience into ending a tiny little life just because it annoyed me or creeped me out. (Sorry PETA, eating them is another story. Yes, I'm a hypocrite.) Eventually, it got to the point where I wasn't just letting them live-- I was going out of my way to save them. 

I think it's part of living in the country, but my parents' house has always had ants. Little tiny ants (that are actually pretty cute compared to the gnarly carpenter variety). Little tiny ants that get into everything.

The purpose of this photo was to show you that they were the cute ones, not the creepy ones. But apparently it's impossible to take a non-creepy photo of an ant. So I tried to show you how cute and tiny they are with that little zoom-out, but it isn't working. I can feel your judging eyes.

Holy long photo caption, Batman. So anyway-- in the high school years, I once left a jar of honey open on the counter at my parents' house. And of course, I returned an hour later, horrified to find dozens of tiny little ants writhing helplessly in the jar's golden death bait (yes, my inner dialogue is always this dramatic).

It was my fault, clearly, for leaving it open. I grabbed a plastic fork, and snapped off all but one tong. Dipping the point into the honey, I pulled up one of the victims, holding it close to my face to assess its welfare.

Assessment: not good. Pulling it out of the honey had further entangled its limbs in the viscous bee-barf, and its tiny antennae were flailing in panic (because I know how to interpret antennae movements, yes).

I transferred the honey-and-ant conglomeration onto a napkin, set the faucet on a slow dribble, and rinsed the honey off the ant, hoping it could hold its breath. I set the tortured insect on a second, dry napkin, and watched it instantly soak all the water off the ant. He scurried off in a frantic zig-zag. Success.

[Repeat for forty-five minutes, or until all helpless little anty-lives have been spared.]

When I moved off to college, there weren't as many ants, much to the relief of my over-active conscience-- but there was a Jason. And it took months to convince him to let me take the spiders, ants, and flies outside instead of him killing them, but I did it. 

Fast-forward to last week, while visiting my dad's house over spring break: We went out to dinner, and somehow a stowaway ant made it onto the table in front of my dad. He let it climb onto a napkin, and pondered out loud if the restaurant would make a happy home for it. 

Lots of food? Plus. Lots of cleaning with bleach? Uh-huh. Not ideal in a happy ant home. And with a quick shake of his wrist, he flicked the ant off of the napkin onto his lap

To take it "back home."

One of the funniest things I've ever seen? Yes. One of the most ridiculous things? Especially yes. 

But also? One of the sweetest things I've ever seen. What can I say? I'm glad to be turning into my parents.


Kristie said...

D'aww, that's sweet! I know what you mean about turning into your parents-- in a very fundamental way, I basically am my mother. It's like the lady gave birth to me and raised me or something. It's nuts.

Markie said...

I totally saw you last week at Fred Meyer!
Glad you are back to blogging! I missed your posts.
Also, I always save bugs and rodents. I always put myself in their position. Except for giant spiders. If they come into my house or crawl on me in the night... they're probably gonna get it.

Emilee said...

I am not surprised at all! Your good nature is obvious...must admit, my tolerance for certain insects fluctuates; Fun post!

Great seeing you at the workout last night! I am always impressed when I see people working out around their injury!

Nanoinfinity said...


I kill earwigs. Wel, more I'd like to kill them, but I'm usually running out of the room squealing.

Everything else gets a ride on a scrap of pwper to the outdoors. [Or the apartment building hallway if it's winter. :P]

April said...

Kristie, I really get the feeling I would like your mom. She sounds like a combination of yourself and my own mom, two of my favorite people!

Markie, your mention of giant late-night spiders just reminded me of another story I should probably write up sometime... : ) Maybe this week.

Emilee, you are too sweet! Hope your knee is recovering quickly : )

Nano, earwigs are awful. AWFUL. I just try to pretend like I didn't see them and move far, far away. & I like how your bug displacements are seasonal! That's cute.

Kelley @ Kelley Maria said...

Your adorable ant story reminds me of the time we had a storm and the street drain in my neighborhood was filled with leaves and tons of worms. I carefully picked each worm out from the heap of leaves, thus freeing it and bringing it to safety. I think I placed them in neighbors yards? Anyways, I enjoyed your ant story :)

April said...

AWwww, Kelley, I can totally picture that! It's so hard to stop after you've saved just one.

Married In Chicago said...

This story made me laugh, but I must admit - I'm one of those people who sorta hates bugs. like eeew gross bugs. i don't kill them though, mainly because a dead bug is more gross to me than a live bug.