If you dislike ants (or long pointless posts, for that matter), it might behoove you to skip this post and come back tomorrow. For those of you who care for such things, read on!
What treasures could possibly lurk in such an innocuous package, you say.
I’m glad you asked. Look a little closer:
These poor little dudes though. Based on the date on the address label, I’m guessing they’ve been trapped in their tiny mailing tube for at least six days. And I’m also guessing that my DC-area metal mailbox may qualify as a place that is subject to “EXTREME HEAT.” And does “OPEN IMMEDIATELY” mean that it’s okay to wait for your son to get off the school bus in two hours, or if you do that, does that make you even more of a monster than you were for ordering ants in a tube to begin with?
They don’t look nearly as happy here as they do on the box:
At least they arrived alive and I didn’t have to email the ant people at their ironic address of firstname.lastname@example.org. (See their adorable little water dish? On a related note, I’m looking for an ant sitter for when we go on vacation later this summer.)
There was all kinds of pre-ant preparation I would have known about had I read farther than “order your ants” in the Owner’s Guide. There was supposed to be “sugar cement” preparation and “evaporation” and “prevention of tunnel collapse” and things of that nature.
I figured that after a week and 2 hours in their tube, the ants wouldn’t care much if the sugar cement hadn’t totally hardened. So we forged ahead and did an abbreviated version of ant habitat preparation.
Ant habitat preparation includes using little red “tunnel starter” sticks to, well, start their tunnels. And then the water part of the sugar cement you added evaporates and you take the tunnel starters out and the ants have a place to start their tunnels.
Or, if you are Team Stimey, you will jam the tunnel starters in the sand, put the ant farm in the sun for five minutes, get impatient, and bring it back inside to release the ants. If you are Team Stimey, you will probably leave the tunnel starters in the ant farm. Remember this. It will be important later.
The Owner’s Guide had said, “Watch as these curious creatures quickly investigate their new home.” They weren’t kidding. They’re fast.
Then all of a sudden, I realized the error of not taking the tunnel starters out. The ants were making a break for it. (The Owner’s Guide’s only advice for catching escapee ants? “…pick up the ants with the tweezers and put them back in the habitat.” I’ve never picked up an ant with tweezers, but I don’t imagine that it’s easy.)
Even sweeter freedom!
There was more shrieking (by me). I started yelling, “They’re going to get away! They’re going to get away!” and pointed at one ant in particular who seemed poised for jailbreak on the very top of one of the tunnel starters.
Fortunately cooler heads prevailed, in the form of Alex, who calmly explained, “Where’s he going to go? He can’t fly, you know.”
Oh. Right. Crisis averted.
We eventually got the lid on and watched the ants, who were very thirsty after their long trip. They did an awful lot of drinking. Then they organized and filled their water dish with sand.
But because they’re ants and their brains are smaller than the grains of sand they were carrying around, I’m guessing no. But even with those tiny brains, their group mind was amazing to watch. They’re already building tunnels and creating their own little queen-less society. (Apparently federal regulations prohibit the mailing of queens.) Their little exercise in a doomed civilization due to their inability to reproduce is a little sad, I have to say.
But look at all the learning that commenced:
I’m hoping that my kids learn something different about ants than I learned when I had an ant farm a few years ago. I mostly learned about how ants dispose of their dead. (They carry them to a little burial site and stack ’em all up together.) I’m sorry to say that I wasn’t a very good ant mom back then. I hope I’ve learned some lessons, because these 25 or so small insects are incredibly fascinating. I hope to keep them around for awhile.
I promise not to make this the summer of the ant. This won’t be like the gerbils.