Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Ants Are Free!

Alternatively titled:

"You're Welcome, Neighbors! I've Introduced Giant, Stinging Red Ants into the Local Ecosystem!"

You may remember about a month ago when some new pets were delivered into my care via the U.S. Postal Service. Well, ever since, it's just been going swimmingly! < /sarcasm >

The escape attempts I could handle. I wasn't thrilled about them, but I could handle them.

It was the mold that was growing that really bothered me. Because it seemed like I was exposing my ants to a cruel fate. I'd be sad if someone kept me prisoner in my house with an increasing mold problem.

I thought about releasing them into the yard, but then I was worried that the local ants would kill them, or they (being tame pet ants) wouldn't be able to hack life in the wild.

I felt as if I had been entrusted with these 20 little souls, and now I was going to subject them to a terrible fate no matter what I did.

Then The New Girl told me about someone she knew whose colony had been wiped out by mold.

And I decided that releasing them was far less cruel than slowly poisoning them.

(Or killing them. I'm not going to say who said this because he has a reputation in my local blogging circle—and beyond—as a compassionate and caring person, but I did have someone tell me, "I have no problem with killing them. I'll do it for you." I'm looking at YOU, husband of close friend.)

So today I carried their little toxic biosphere to a spot by the side of my driveway, peeled off the tape holding it closed, and opened the top.

And they didn't try to get away.

The little bastards cowered in there. Sure, if they're in my house they're going to run amok, but in the great outdoors? I think they came to the conclusion that maybe mold-free living was overrated.

Stupid compliant ants.

I explained to my kids that if they stayed in their ant farm they were going to get sick.

"Can they throw up on the grass?" asked Quinn.

Then I dumped them out.

I think it was a good decision. The mold seems to have been more pervasive than it appeared. They had carried it down into their tunnels with them. I put the ant farm in the dishwasher and made a firm agreement with myself to capture local ants myself next time I want to murder study ants.

I've been checking on the ants periodically since The Great Ant Release, and they seem to be doing fine. Some of them are wandering off to explore, but they mostly seem to be digging tunnels in the (moldy) sand from their ant farm.

There have been some interlopers in the form of tiny black ants checking out the new ant hill, but I think my ants can kick their asses.

I do still feel the weight of their little lives on my shoulders. I keep thinking of how they're going to feel when there's only five of them left. Then two. Then the last little ant. Shakes fists at heavens... What have I done?! What have I done?!

I'm especially concerned because it looks like it's going to rain soon.

Is it completely crazy that I want to build a little shelter to protect them from the rain in case their tunnels aren't deep enough yet?

You don't have to answer that. I already know.


  1. Oh so sad. Well, every ant has his day? You've been a kind and compassionate ruler, stimey, but it is time for the ants to go forth and prosper. The boys are taking it well I guess? I'm impressed they lived this long!

  2. I am having this same problem right now. Our ant farm is an all-incusive resort ant farm where the food and drinks are included as part of the tunneling material. However, about 2 weeks ago the ants started a dumping ground to collect all of their waste. They built it up high on the side of the case. Everyday it gets bigger and blacker. Today I noticed mold growing and I think an ant has died. We had 26, and when I did my count (hard to do when they huddle and move) I got 25. I want to set them free, but I don't want to start a plague of Harvester Ants on the local insect/ant/plant community. Ahhhh! Who knew an ant farm could make a person feel like such a callous giant?!

  3. You're a better ant farmer than I would have been. I would have told the kids it was time to let them go (because of the mold) and I would have taken them to a sandy spot at the nearest forest preserve or something. Yeah, I could walk away and not look back, spinning the yarn to my kids about how happy they'll be ...

  4. Your work here is done. Now put the ants out of your mind and go buy one of those nice Grow Your Own Butterfly kits. Trust me -- a much better all-around experience.

  5. I agree with M. Those butterfly kits are cool. J's preschool had one and all the kids loved it. And, you are able to "release" the creature and not feel guilty.


    PS Also, no mold. That's worth the price of admission right there!

  6. Kal, the little dudes are fine with setting the ants free. They're delighted with the outside ant farm.

    Ninjamama, yikes. I thought one of those gel farms would eliminate the mold problem. I'm sorry to hear that it doesn't. The ants seem to be doing all right. And since there's no queen, I don't feel really bad siccing them on the neighborhood.

    Oooh, butterfly kits! There's an idea.

  7. You crack me up! I'm thinking of a butterfly kit, myself. My nephew is into bugs. Might be a fun summer project.

  8. This is the butterfly kit we used (twice) with great success:

  9. I would be thinking about a shelter too - I kinda have a soft spot for ants - they're so industrious!

  10. This is an alltime hilarious post. Classic Stimey.

    And yes, you are a GOOD mom. Of kids. Of gerbils. Of hamsters. Of dogs. Of cats.

    Of ants.



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