Tennessee, United States
Posted May 29, 2013
When my youngest daughter Anna was in the first grade she brought home a surprise.
"Mommy, Mommy, look the teacher gave everyone in my class an ant farm!"
My little blonde haired, blue eyed girl held up the enclosure proudly as the ants milled around inside behind the glass and as she displayed her new found possession, I became nervous.
Now mind you, I am not one of those women who squeals and screams every time an insect lands on her but I wasn't very confident about that ant farm being in my house. As a matter of fact, I had a high anticipation that my curious little girl would some how set her little pets free inside of my home and I felt I needed to understand these little creatures more and what to do if they left the farm for the big city which was my house.
I have always been a researcher of things and felt these ants needed to be studied. I needed to find out what type of ant they were, how long they would live and what to do if you had an ant farm on the loose in your house so I sat down and found out some info on the little buggers.
They were harvester ants which are primarily foragers and scavengers. During the summer and fall, they gather seeds from a radius around their nest stretching as far as 3.5 meters. These seeds are then stored in special underground chambers called "granaries," which supply the colony with a steady food stream through the winter. In addition, harvester ants will scavenge the corpses of dead insects, though they rarely hunt their own prey. Like all ants, harvesters go through a 4 stage life-cycle. They begin as small, fleshy eggs that are approximately 0.5 mm in length. Eventually these eggs hatch, and the ants emerge as larvae. With long goose-necked bodies and no legs, larvae are unidentifiable as ants except for their heads. They spend all their time in the nest to eat and grow and when they've stored enough energy, they weave a cocoon around themselves and enter the pupal phase. Like caterpillars to butterflies, this pupal phase is their final transformation and when they emerge from their cocoon, they are full grown ants.
As I was researching, I found out a fact which made me sad. They do not have a queen in ants farms because of the fear of overpopulation and to lower the sting from soldier ants. Because of not having a queen the ants only live a few short months. My research told me if the ants got free soap and water would work to get rid of them but I didn't want to hurt the little guys, I just didn't want them milling all over my house so I prayed my daughter Anna would look at them instead of letting them go.
A couple of weeks later Anna came up to me in the kitchen with a sad expression across her face.
"What's wrong, Sweetheart?"
Anna looked up at me with her beautiful blue-green eyes before answering, "Mommy, I felt so bad for the ants so I let them go."
My ant nightmare was coming true. She had let them go and they were milling through my house and would be crawling all over everything. As I panicked inside of myself, I managed to keep a straight face as I asked her to repeat what she had just said, "Sweetie, what did you just say?"
"I let the ants go Mommy. I felt so bad for them being cooped up so I set them free."
"That's what I thought you just said. Oh no, what can I do?"
I began thinking about the soap and water with the dread riding in my chest of hurting the ants. I do not like to harm animals of any genre so the thought of spraying these little creatures made me feel horrible.
"Mommy, what's the matter?"
"Sweetheart, Mommy's fine, I just have to figure out how to get your ants out of the house."
"No you dont," Anna said, "they won't hurt you."
"I know Anna but I don't want them in my house."
"They are not in the house Mommy, I let them go outside. If I had let them loose in here it would have just been a bigger ant farm and they wouldn't have been free."
Relief rushed over me as I heard she had set them loose outside and that I would not have to take the soap and water mixture after them. I hugged my daughter closely and as I did my feeling of being so ANTsy began to calm down.