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Lord of the Formics

The ants have returned. You can drive the little buggers back with poison and flamethrowers and boots, but there can be no permanent victory over one of nature’s most successful families. At best, you can weaken a colony to the point where another moves in.

I think that’s what happened since last year, when I discovered that a homebrew of boric acid and sugar works waaaaay better than brand-name sprays, granules, and traps. The boric acid never wiped out our ants, but it kept ’em out of the house apart from occasions when the mixture dried too far for the ants to eat and needed to be refreshed with a bit of water.

The ants out on the yard got smaller, too. I could never make up my mind whether this was a competing species that kept to the outdoors and therefore suffered less poison or evidence of the damage done to the colony. See, I know many species of ants don’t grow to full size in a nascent colony; in these earliest stages, they have little resources to build more ants, and quantity (for bringing in more food) beats quality (like strength for fending off competitors), so a colony’s first ants grow small, and later generations get larger. In extreme cases, some species go through this cycle every year, shrinking over the winter and growing with summer plenty. Boric acid and sugar work together as poison that gets taken back to the colony and fed to the non-foragers. Clever! If the ants in or house were getting smaller, then maybe—or so I liked to imagine—the colony had been poisoned so badly that it was forced back to emergency rations. Or maybe it was just a different kind of ant, but that explanation offered less testimony to my god-like powers over life and death.

Alas, it seems the latter explanation was the correct one. The ants, I repeat, are back, and they’re tiny. But they’re not just smaller than they were last year; they’re more aggressive. They nip. Different behavior, I’m guessing, means a different species entirely. So what I get for my god-like power is a nastier form of mortal pest. The deity business isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.

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