Ten days ago I was in the midst of my very first pest-control crisis.
They were everywhere in my kitchen. On the floor. On the countertops. Congregating underneath my fruit bowl. Rooting around my kitchen cupboard for treats. One lone scout even managed to find its way into the bedroom.
While my place is by no means a sterile laboratory environment, I do keep it clean and tidy. I sweep up almost daily, mop up messes diligently, never leave dishes in the sink, sanitise my countertops religiously.
So why were these ants invading? What had I done to elicit their attentions? What did this say about my housekeeping skills? Or my worth as an individual?
I edged closer and closer to an existential crisis the likes of which I had only experienced once before, when a winged cockroach had flown in through an open window in my Brooklyn apartment and camped out in my bathroom for several hours, forcing me to flee in terror.a
I identified two likely culprits: a plastic carton of dates I had kept outside, thinking it was securely sealed; and a squeezy-bottle of honey in the cupboard that I had neglected to wipe before putting away. As the ants clustered around these two items, both replete with sugary goodness, I was overcome with disgust. Both were violently tossed in the trash.
I then got hold of myself and set about patrolling the internet for ways to tackle my six-legged houseguests. Being Buddhist about this and letting the ants be was not an option.
The first thing any article on eradicating ants will tell you to do is to identify the ant. There are over 10,000 classified species of ants overrunning this planet, so I skipped this step. These weren’t some exotic kind of jungle-dwelling insect — there were just your black, small, run-of-the-mill ant. Apart from dismaying me a great deal and possibly contaminating some of my food, they were harmless.
There are dozens of ways to get rid of ants. You can feed them something that they can’t digest, like cornmeal, which would cause them to explode. You can keep them at bay with barriers like creating a boundary of cinnamon, turmeric or baby powder around your kitchen or the whole house. You can send them back home with a bait of sorts — a sugary liquid mixed with borax or some other slow-acting pesticide and have the scouts do away with their own colony. And the best method would be to never allow them in to begin with by permanently sealing off any cracks that ants can use as entryways with silicone caulk.
As much as I wanted to have my flat smell like a Pumpkin Spice Latté (which was not very much at all), the prospect of treading through cinnamon or some other spice every time I used my kitchen was unappealing. I needed a fast, clean solution.
So I bought the poison bait discs they sell at the supermarket and tried my luck. Kill the colony, do away with the queen — that seemed like the best way to go. I set my traps and bided my time.
48-hours later they still were still having a fine old time in my kitchen. In fact even more of them had joined the party.
“FINE! So you want to do it that way, eh, ants? I’ll get you, oh I’ll get you good,” I muttered to myself, enraged.
I scampered off to the DIY shop to hunt for borax to mix with sugar solution to make an effective home-made ant bait. I had plans to make the stickiest, sweetest, most insidiously poisonous solution for the ants to take home to their friends.
But my hopes were dashed — they didn’t just sell borax in Dubai willy-nilly. In fact, no one at the shop had any idea what borax was. Come to think of it, neither did I.
The sales assistant pointed me to the very same bait product that had failed me so utterly before. I shook my head and took a spray bottle and two tubes of ant powder home.
I moved every item not within the confines of the refrigerator out of the kitchen. Appliances, food stuffs, fruit bowls. I emptied the cupboards.
Then I covered the kitchen in a cloud of grey ant powder. I opened the cupboards and sprinkled a liberal amount of the powder on all the shelves.
As the powder settled in a thick layer, the ants caught in the fallout struggled then fell still.
I looked about me with satisfaction then left the house for a few hours, leaving my poisonous dust to do its work.
On my return I surveyed the damage to my kitchen. Ashy powder everywhere, littered with small ant carcasses.
I set about frenetically wiping and sweeping, mopping and sanitising.
Satisfied with my efforts, I filled the spray bottle with some water and white vinegar and unleashed a spray of the foul smelling liquid onto every surface. Wipe, wipe, wipe.
The flat smelled like a packet of salt and vinegar crisps for a while. But as the vinegar solution evaporated, so did the smell.
Not an ant in sight since.b