In an attempt to pretty up the place in anticipation for our upcoming wedding I hauled a five gallon container of Bells of Fire to replace the dead annuals in the pot on the corner of the patio. While a wedding at home may be cost saving, the preparations consume an inordinate amount of time. Refinishing doors, steam cleaning rugs, washing window after window, it was now down to the wire and I worked tediously in the gardens deadheading, pulling weeds and replacing spent plant life. The brilliant orange blooms of the Bells of Fire were destined for the stone pot and would contrast nicely against the sweet smelling white jasmine and gardenias and the pinks of the vinca.
After parking the wheelbarrow next to the stone container I began to dig out the dead plants and soil. Frustrated and impatient to get the job done, I tossed the small trowel aside and plunged my hands into the wet earth. It was a minute or two before I noticed the steady stream of ants circling the rim of the container and spilling over its side. Tiny things, less than an eighth of an inch, individually they were easy to miss, but this was an army! A battalion of Solenopsis Xyloni (AKA the dreaded Arizona Fire Ants) was on high alert primed for battle. I jumped back quickly but not quick enough. Ants scampered over and around my mud caked hands, stinging and biting ferociously and sending me whooping and hollering. Their strategy is simple: they swarm over the enemy and once in position they bite in unison! Slapping and shaking myself like a Jim Carey character I managed to knock them off but not before the damage was done. Burning red welts rose on my fingers and the backs of my hands.
Now why are these little buggers so mean? Granted I disrupted their home, but I didn’t mean to do that. It wasn’t intentional. Surely they must know from centuries of dealing with us lumbering humans that we pay little attention to where we step. Couldn’t they devise a better plan for dealing with us? Even a rattlesnake does us the courtesy of rattling a warning. Granted we probably wouldn’t hear ants with tiny rattles but couldn’t they designate an emissary? Why not send one ant up waving a white flag? Or better yet a marching band, they could have scurried around the rim of the pot to spell out the word STOP! That would have captured my attention. We could have sat down and discussed the situation over a cup of tea. We could have come up with a solution that pleased us both. I’m a decent person willing to compromise but I suppose when you are less than an eighth of an inch tall it must seem like the best defense is a good offense. A mighty band of little Napoleons those little ants immediately went on a rampage and attacked.
The sad part in all this is that once the battle lines were drawn I was forced to employ my own version of “shock and awe” bombing them with ant killer. They didn’t stand a chance. But the Bells of Fire look nice.