Invasion of the Fire Ants

by Amy Kraft on June 22, 2010

Olive doesn’t really ask for much. Yes, if you take her into a toy store she’ll point to thirty things that she’d like to have, but if you ask her what she wants for her birthday she’ll likely shrug and say, “Whatever you feel like buying.” This year though, she mentioned a few times that she wanted an ant farm. The one she had pointed out to me was sold out, so the Mac Daddy went on an ant farm search and brought home the Insect Lore Ant Hill.

The ants arrived yesterday. I should mention that they’re fire ants. You know… the kind that bites. We stuck them in the fridge to calm them down, and then made the safe transfer to the Ant Hill.

In less than a day, the ants have done some serious work. I love what they’ve done here by hollowing out the lower left corner so that any time an ant crawls down there it plummets to the bottom. Good thinking, ants.

It’s at the kitchen table so we can eat meals and watch the ants. Watching ants work is a nice Zen activity for the whole family. I wonder how Zen it will be in a few weeks when it’s little more than a mass ant grave. At least Olive will be reinforcing the life-cycle learning she’s doing at school. Here’s a diagram that she made of an ant in her journal, taking special care to point out the fire ant’s poison sac.

If you bring a swarm of fire ants into your home, a nice companion toy is the Bug Vacuum from Backyard Safari Outfitters, which was an awesome gift from one of Olive’s friends.

We took it out to our backyard and sucked up some ants, a couple beetles, and a spider. The best part is the gentle suction that doesn’t hurt the bugs, not even the fragile little spider. It pisses them off, sure, but it doesn’t hurt them. It could suck up fire ants in no time (we had it handy during the ant transfer). Once in the vacuum you can flip up the magnifying glass to trap and examine the bugs.

The big question will be how the gentle suction handles the occasional giant NYC specimen that invades our home in late summer, the kind of bug that when we see it we scream and throw shoes and pans and other heavy objects at.

I’ll keep you posted.

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