Actually, I don’t believe that ants are any different for Peace Corps Volunteers than they are for anyone else, but I had several experiences with ants that left a strong impression. For example, one evening when I arrived at my house, I found a dead gecko on the floor when I parked my motorcycle. I was tired, so I just left it there with the intention of picking it up to put in the trash the next morning. However, when I looked at it again in the morning light, there was nothing left but a bare skeleton, with just a few ants still cleaning up the traces of flesh.
These were tiny ants, probably 2-3 mm long, and perhaps 0.5 mm in diameter, but there were thousands of them. Whenever they found a food source of any significance, they would quickly form a highway with ants moving both ways as they traveled to the food, and then carried it back to their nest. Here is a picture of an ant highway of this sort on the ground.
One of the treats that I enjoyed was sugar-coated peanuts. I could buy a sandwich bag full of them for 5 baht, and that made for pleasant snacking for several days. Or it did until I reached into the bag one evening and found that there were thousands of ants in the process of moving my snack to their nest. Since I don’t consider the flavor of ants to be enjoyable, I tossed the peanuts, and bought another bag the next day.
This time, however, I decided to outsmart the ants. Rather than just putting the plastic bag on the shelf where they had found it before, I took a piece of shoelace and suspended the bag from the rope that crossed the room over my hammock. I had a simple slip-knot in the end of the lace, so I could easily remove the bag to nibble on my candy, and then re-tie it in midair to keep it away from the ants. This worked for a week or two, but one day I came home and flopped down in my hammock, only to find a few seconds later that I had tiny little ants crawling all over me. After quickly brushing most of them off, I checked to see where they had come from, and found another of the ant highways running along the rope and down to the bag, where they had actually chewed a hole through the plastic to get at my sugar-coated peanuts!
My first thought was to destroy the bag with the ants in it, but then I paused and decided to first find out where they were coming from. I followed the highway until it disappeared into a crack in the floor, then went downstairs to pick up the trail again. It took me several minutes, but finally I found where the highway ended as the ants entered a crack by the frame of the back door and thus into the concrete block wall, where I presume they had their nest. It was at least 30 feet away from my candy. I got my bug spray [lethal, not just a repellant] and soaked the hole, then went back upstairs and threw away the bag of candy.
Initially I hoped that this would get rid of the ants, but they had more entrances to their nest than I was ever able to block. When I came home with my next bag of candy, I suspended it from the rope as before, but this time I soaked the rope at both ends with my bug spray. I monitored it daily, and soon figured out that if I did not repeat the bug spray every 2-3 days, they would get into my candy. I’m not sure whether this constituted a victory, or just a tactical standoff, but with diligence I was able to keep my snacks around for me to eat, rather than the ants.
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