Ants. Anything but Ants

(photo from Paul Garland taken of the dreaded El Paso ants of my childhood)

“Ants! Mom! Ants!”

Ever since I was a little, that was the one word I never wanted to hear screamed in my house.


Where I’m from we never had fire ants. We didn’t have many sugar ants. I lived in the desert and we had the Clydesdale of ants – Red Harvester ants.

These big red ants are five times the size of the little sugar ants and they built huge mounds all over the place. The mounds were the size of a kiddie pool, and were like an ant ice burg - there were a whole lot more ants underground than the ones you saw above ground. The outside ants were the landscape crew, carefully moving little pebbles back and forth, while inside the mound trillions more were doing serious jobs like moving pieces of paper to and from each others’ tiny desks.

I learned about just how many ants were hanging out underground when my next-door neighbor, a little girl who was not very nice to the rest of us on the block, fell into a new anthill in her yard. While I had wished for just this sort of thing every time she’d teased me and my friends, it was stunning to see it happen.

In seconds she was covered with really mad red ants and was screaming her head off. Her mother came running out, stripped her clothes off right then and there and sprayed her off with the water hose.

She never really teased me much after that, so I guess I should have been grateful to those red ants – or the giant hand of “what goes around, comes around” that gave her a shove.

Still, there is something about ants the size of moths with mega-mounds (that probably each get their own ant zip code) that makes you unsure of who can stomp on whom.

Fortunately for all of us, there were only a few fire ants that attacked our dog’s tennis ball and then hopped on his muzzle for a ride. None, as far as I could see, landed on Sierra, although she was creeped out for an hour. Dyno, the unfortunate dog in question, survived with no mental scarring, probably due to the fact that he’s pretty bone headed.

So I have no doubt he’ll dive right back in another mound for the ball. We’ll keep the hose at the ready.