Twelve Things I Wish I’d Known About Insects

Moebius Strip II by M.C. Escher
Moebius Strip II by M.C. Escher
Moebius Strip II by M.C. Escher
  1. Termites are endemic in California. Houses that are sold here are typically tented for termites during the period after the seller moves out and before the buyer moves in.
  2. Ants are endemic in California.
  3. Termites and ants are natural enemies that fight over territory. Ants living outside a house that has recently been tented for termites will move into the walls and feast on termite corpses, while you, the new homeowner, remain blissfully ignorant because none of the approximately three hundred people involved in the real estate transaction will have bothered to mention this simple fact to you.
  4. The gas used to kill termites has no effect on the ants that will later eat them.
  5. Eventually, the ants that move into your walls will either run out of termite meat or grow bored of their all-termite diet. At that point, they will begin to leave the walls to look for food sources inside the house.
  6. Although cats will happily chase almost any kind of insect, real or imagined, that they encounter, they are completely uninterested in ants.
  7. Exterminators respond to an ant infestation by treating both the interior of the house and the exterior, spraying the ground and the base of any trees near the house.
  8. Spraying the base of a tree does not kill the ants living in the tree; it just prevents them from climbing down.
  9. Ants that wish to leave a tree but that don’t want to climb down will instead climb up and, upon discovering that one of the branches touches the house, will follow that branch to the roof and then climb down the chimney. Approximately five minutes after the extermination company closes for the day, you will discover a line of ants leading from your fireplace to the few morsels of cat food on the kitchen floor.
  10. Cleaning up the cat food on the kitchen floor will shift the line of ants from the floor to the unsealed box of spaghetti in your kitchen cabinet.
  11. Removing all unsealed food sources from your house will modify the ants’ behavior, but probably not in the way that you’d hoped. Instead of forming an orderly line from your fireplace to a spot in your kitchen, they will scatter across every horizontal surface in your house, including the ceiling.
  12. Burning the house down may seem like a good idea, but it has flaws: in preparation for setting the fire, you’ll have to put your cats into carriers and then in the car, and they hate that. Also, arson is a felony. I checked.

26 thoughts on “Twelve Things I Wish I’d Known About Insects

  1. every summer ants find their way through a crack in my wall and into my BED. One of the few reasons I put up with winter – it’s ant-free

    1. Yikes! Have you considered burning the house down? I know I said it was a felony, but actually I’m only familiar with the laws in the U.S.

  2. Gosh, Laura, that is quite a story of how chain reactions work in practice.

    Who knew all that about termites and ants? Your blog truly is a mine of helpful information on all manner of insects… and other stuff I wouldn’t have thought about previously, like coffee plants, for instance. Clearly, I still have much to learn about life…

    1. It was kind of like being in a horror movie. Every attempt to get rid of ants/termites just made the situation worse.

      Also, congratulations. I don’t think a comment mentioning “helpful information” in conjunction with this blog has ever made it past the spam filter before.

  3. It’s probably the wrong reaction, but I am totally thrilled about the idea of ants eating gassed out termite corpses. Of course, it isn’t happening in my house.

    In college I had a summer apartment in a basement that was infested with ants. They made a very orderly line, which you could see from across the room, from where they got in in the kitchen (no food in there, suckers!) to my cat’s food bowl. When I put her bowl in a bigger bowl with water, they figured out how to make a bridge…with themselves. Poco was not a fan of ant enriched food. But she would pick up the kitty crunchy they were carrying across the room and eat it – which was hilarious.

    1. Ants must be idiot savants. They have the intelligence to build a bridge, yet the arrogance or ignorance to think they can just walk away with the goods with no consequence.

  4. We’ve had an ‘infestation’ of tiny to mid-sized spiders lately…
    which is not cool.
    And of course, I’m the spider catcher…
    also not cool.
    Maybe if we can get all the termites, ants and spiders to fight each other in some sort of steel cage grudge match…
    if that doesn’t work we could try to set the ‘ring’ on fire…

      1. The first rule of Insect Fight Club is: do not produce chemical signals, sounds, or other vibrations, or engage in acts of bioluminescence or dance that in any way convey information regarding Insect Fight Club.

  5. I like that idea- tempt all the ants, spiders and termites (and if i may add, potato bugs) into a fighting ring and let nature take it’s course. Then the survivors get a blast of Orange Oil or whatever the new poison is these days…

  6. Perhaps I could interest you in an anteater? They’ll take care of your problem, are quite lovable, and are only mildly invasive. They do require a first-floor bedroom, and internet access, though.

  7. It’s sad that cats won’t help by willfully going into those carriers and being good sports at a time you’re under a lot of stress because you’re trying to set your house on fire. Be team players, cats!

    1. They’re just very territorial. I’m sure they would have done everything they could to help if I’d been trying to burn down someone else’s house.

  8. Did you know that insect exoskeletons are made out of chitin, the same thing that mushrooms are out of?

    Mmmmm fried shiitake grasshoppers…

    1. I knew insect exoskeletons were made from chitin, but I didn’t know mushrooms were! And I haven’t tried fried shiitake grasshoppers, but I did have garlicky fried crickets once.

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