Real Life 8 Comments

Ants: a one-star experience

The “featured image” is a bumblebee because they are nice and cute and pollinate plants and don’t want to be in my home.

I had bed bugs three years ago and it was one of the worst experiences of my life. Not the bugs themselves, which were awful and gross and a huge pain in the ass, but at the end of the day they were just a bunch of stupid if persistent tiny creatures. What got to me was the sense of invasion — one’s own bed in one’s own home should be inviolate — and the knowledge that at any moment they were out there, waiting to feed on me while I was asleep.

The way to handle a bed bug problem can lend itself to some disordered thinking. For about a month I slept in a sleeping bag on a bare matress. In the morning I would put the matress up against the wall, seal the sleeping bag in a giant ziplock bag, and sprinkle diatomaceous earth all over the floor. I kept rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle to hose down suspect surfaces. I actually only ever saw a single bug after the initial gross discovery, but I remained constantly vigilant.

(I eventually moved, and on my way out I put all of my belongings in a rented box truck and had it super-heated. The process killed two hard drives and melted my bicycle tires, but the peace of mind was well worth it. It actually felt pretty cleansing! Not only no bed bugs — no moths, no strange bacteria in that third-hand copy of House of Leaves that I still haven’t read. I recommend it sometime even with an insect-free move.)

The point is, the whole thing was pretty traumatic.

Cue modern day. Life was just swell, and then.. we got ants.

There are ants in the baseboards of TWO different locations in my third-floor apartment. And okay, they’re ants, you don’t want them forraging in your home, but they don’t bite. They don’t want to live in your stuff. They’re not even a particularly subtle bug, and you can buy 6 ant traps for $5. But the ants have set off this round of deep panic within me that I didn’t even know was still there.

There is a small spot an inch from the floor on the jutting closet corner behind me right now where the paint has been knocked off and you can see the metal brace underneath. I know because every single time I turn around, my eyes dart to it, and I think, “yep, that’s just the divot in the paint, it’s still okay.” I have found four (4!) ants on my desk since this all started, and now at least once a minute I have to scan the surface to try and identify invaders. We found two ants in the kitchen yesterday — as people who love to cook the prospect of ants in the kitchen is some major bullshit — and I haven’t eaten at home since because I’m afraid of spilling something ant-licious.

Obviously, I dream about ants.

It’s the weirdest sensation, your body pumping adrenaline into you like you have to punch a bear RIGHT NOW while your brain knows that you’re wildly over-reacting. I feel a little like I’ve been taken hostage by my own nervous system. It’s awful.

I frequently find myself turning to my infinitely patient partner and thinking, “don’t talk about ants” as another AntFact(tm) that I learned from obsessive internet research tumbles out of my mouth. Sometimes he takes my hand, looks me in the eyes, and says, “They’re not bed bugs.” And, I mean, he’s right, but what if we wake up tomorrow and our entire home is just a rippling swarm of ants? What if they eat the fancy peanut butter I just bought and wiggle around on my grandmother’s blanket and live in your game controller and then one day you hit the X button and ants just come pouring out of it, huh? I realize most of my furniture is decades-old IKEA, but I earned the money to own that and it deserves more than to be an ant poop zone. (Do ants poop? God, I hadn’t even considered that until I said it just now. Nature is the worst.)

I’m not sure exactly why I wrote this, except it felt good to write down. If you or a loved one has phobia-induced anxiety attacks, I’m sorry. It totally sucks, and it will probably get better. Right?

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8 Comments

  • Reply
    Ravanel
    May 17, 2017 at 1:22 am

    OMG, I have this with roaches. Was living in an apartment that was just cleansed of them when I moved in (of course nobody told me this beforehand). But that first year I found scouts. Traps and the sort didn’t really work, since they were singular cases. I became obsessed with cleaning. Only thing that helped was when I filled all holes next to the radiator tubes with foam. Still freak out about roaches, and I’m (otherwise) not afraid of anything. It’s like an extreme reaction of repulsion.

    Also feel similar about lice (being a long hair kinda girl), but it got better now I know how to get rid of them within a mere couple of days (30 minutes of combing with lice comb in the morning and evening + washing everything).

    Just looked up a picture of a bed bug and… Yuck. I would totally freak out in the same way.

    • Reply
      Jessica Cook
      May 21, 2017 at 4:06 pm

      I’m very similar about not usually being afraid of things, but roaches would totally do that to me too. House bugs = no thank you.

  • Reply
    LK
    May 17, 2017 at 3:13 am

    Leave yeast with a little honey stirred in and in ant sized bites where they can fins it. The yeast will expand in their stomachs and they will explode. Their ant buddies will soon learn that the place with the yeast is a bad place to search for food and will stay away

  • Reply
    Shintar
    May 17, 2017 at 12:36 pm

    Practical thought, since I’m not sure what to picture when you say “in the baseboards”: Have you checked where they come through? My Mum, who incidentally also lives in a third-floor apartment, had a little ant invasion in her kitchen last summer, so when I visited I took a look at where they were pathing and found that they were all coming through a tiny hole in the plaster under one of the windowsills. Plugging that hole was all it took to solve the problem.

    • Reply
      Jessica Cook
      May 21, 2017 at 4:01 pm

      Unfortunately the exterminator said that our building just happens to have a ton of ants in the walls (ugh). However, I was inspired by your comment and today after the poison did its think we plugged all the holes we knew about! I think we’ve won.. for a while.

  • Reply
    Isey
    May 17, 2017 at 12:36 pm

    I thought you were talking about the movie Ants, in which, your post was very accurate indeed!

  • Reply
    Telwyn
    May 20, 2017 at 6:09 am

    We live with ants as a fact of reality, we have a garden with trees and a lawn and we’re near open woodland. Even if we kill off the nests every year there’s always new flying ants to come start a new one every summer. Living on the edge of a big city mice are a much bigger menace – thankfully in recent years enough neighbours have cats to keep that under control without us needing to do much.

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