For the past few weeks I have been living with ants in my kitchen. It has been a very interesting experience and I am learning so much. It is the first time they have actively come into our home and my first thought was uh oh. I do not kill ants, and normally if I see just one that maybe accidentally hitched a ride indoors on my shirt or on flowers I simply take them back outside. This time there were too many to take out, so I began observing them. I saw one ant die because a kitty accidentally stepped on him and then watched as another ant carried his dead family member all the way up the wall the same as a person who would not leave someone behind. It did not look easy, and the ant carrying the load obviously struggled, yet persevered. I have watched them collaborate and as their tiny antennae moved I couldn’t help imagine that we would think of them as cute if they were big enough for us to see their faces. I loved that the movie “Ant Man” showed them as such and especially the part where one remains “dog sized” as the family’s animal companion! Granted that is a fantasy also in the sense that an ant would be happier as part of their colony family, but it is a fun fantasy. I think it goes a long way in shifting our perspective of ants as “pests.” As humans we value individuality and this idea helps us respect ants as individual beings (even as they work together with their colony) with lives and goals that they very much value as we do.
I also began to consider if the ants were there to convey something to me, what could I learn from them? I certainly learned not to leave dishes in the sink for too long before putting them in the dishwasher! My kitchen has never before been so sparkling and spotless! On a deeper level I realized they are drawn to sugary and oily food. This made me think about how I have been eating, my diet has been a bit too sugar heavy for a while now, since I discovered vegan doughnuts and vegan marshmallows existed! The ants are teaching me to remember what is healthy for me and perhaps to bring a bit of balance to my nutrition. Ants are also hard workers and never give up. They are NOT mindless drones, they very much value survival. I notice that when I start to clean an area they will give up the crumb they were eating rather than risk being accidentally smushed. When I do need to move one, they will climb on my hand and then walk down my finger to the new surface in a delicate manner that is purposeful yet careful. I know it may sound odd, but I find it endearing.
I will be asking them to move out soon, it is not ideal for them to be in the kitchen of course. I worry about accidentally killing them when I clean or put down something heavy. I will thank them for the lessons I have learned and offer something in return for them leaving, like providing a small plate of sugar they can eat outside. Is it really so different than providing sugar water for our hummingbirds? Once you discover where they are entering your home, a well-placed dish of sugar or sugar water will keep them happily outside. If they need an extra bit of encouragement the scent of white vinegar or peppermint oil will also remove the “welcome mat.” I will not use any “pest control” chemicals that would kill them and could harm me and my family (and be much worse than a few ants living alongside us.) Ants are fascinating insects and showing the tiniest beings kindness and respect goes a really long way. If you spot a single ant inside on your arm, or walking on the porch table, please consider simply taking them out, or if you are outside already; letting them be, or even giving them your unwanted crumbs. They are very beneficial to the environment & our gardens are their home too!
Funny photo side note: when I set up this plate outside to photograph them, they seemed camera shy and it took quite a while to get one, then finally two to climb on! These two ants are a bit bigger than the ones in the kitchen, which made it easier to photograph them without specialized lenses, but their faces are just as cute!