The Dalai Lama and Vlad the Impaler Inform Our Approach to Dealing with Alajuelan Ants — By Jennifer Shipp
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The Dalai Lama and Vlad the Impaler Inform Our Approach to Dealing with Alajuelan Ants — By Jennifer Shipp

Ants in Costa Rica
Costa Rican ants are more difficult to photograph when they’re alive than when they’re dead.

So I was curious about our Costa Rican ants and I decided to do some research. Talk of them occupies a fairly significant portion of our day because these little creatures are constantly forging new paths into our home. They are very dedicated to their cause (to gain access to our food) and there are many different kinds of them. After John killed several trails of them making their way across our floors, they started creating little paths from our ceiling. This drives John absolutely nuts. I find him on all fours down on the floor crawling through the house to find where the ants are originating. I’ll come in from our backyard after pulling laundry off the line to find him staring at the corner of the wall with passionate intensity. Of course, he isn’t just looking at the corner of the wall, he’s watching a tiny army of ants trying to gain access to things like raisins and honey.

Yesterday, on a bus ride into the MegaSuper, he told me that he took some time to watch a video about what the Dalai Lama thinks about killing insects. He said that in the video, the Dalai Lama said that the first time a mosquito lands on his arm, he’ll let it suck a little bit of blood. The second time the mosquito lands on his arm, he’ll blow some air at it to get it to go away. And according to the video, the third time a mosquito lands on the Dalai Lama’s arm, he’ll give it a good, hard “flick”.

“So, is it okay to kill the ants?” I asked John.

He shrugged his shoulders and said, “I don’t know.”

We decided that there comes a time with both ants and men when it’s either you or them. You either have to draw a perimeter around yourself or spend your whole life as a fugitive, running from everyone and everything that wants to suck the life out of you.

You see, the problem is that we thought the ants were cute when we first moved in. They were such passionately hard workers. We started personifying them. Then it was hard to kill them. That’s what cuteness can do to a person. That’s how we ended up with four pet cats.

But cuteness is highly overrated. It is not in any way diagnostic of compatibility with another person or animal. Indeed, children with reactive attachment disorder, tend to be remarkably cute (until you live with them for awhile). Ants are like that too… Cute, unless you have to live with them. And an ant farm doesn’t count.

There are a lot of different kinds of Costa Rican ants, apparently (84 genera). I thought it might be fun to be able to actually name them and identify them, but unfortunately, identification is based on a really close-up view of individual ants. I spent some time perusing images of dead ants impaled on stick pins and realized that there would be no way for me to identify the living ants by looking at the images of the dead ones. At least not without a thorough and in depth study of their anatomical features. I mean, there are big ones and small ones, ants with pinchers, ants that are reddish, and ants that are brown or black. But these are not identifying characteristics, apparently. You have to look closely at the ant antennae, I guess, and count the number of segments the antennae have to figure out which ant is which and, honestly, this kind of intimacy doesn’t really interest me.

What does interest me is the idea that ants and people have a lot in common. There have been a lot of people that I’ve thought were cute until I let them into my life. In fact, cuteness is a good reason to put up a red flag and take a solid ready stance, in my opinion. I have often wish that there was a “people spray” that was legal and that would simply deter certain individuals from invading my stash (without killing them necessarily). According to some experts, after killing ants, you should leave the carnage for other ants to see so that a new tribe of them won’t try to set up shop right there in the same place as the others. Vlad the Impaler took this kind of approach, but with people instead of ants and apparently it worked.

I doubt that the Dalai Lama would approve of going to these extremes, but I suppose, if properly provoked, even the Dalai Lama would resort to doing what it took to survive. Maybe I’ll develop a more enlightened stance on the whole situation by going to our nightly yoga classes. But probably I’ll just get better at doing the middle splits.

Related Posts:

Ant Armageddon — By Jennifer Shipp

Costa Rica Is Mostly Not Like Mexico — By Jennifer Shipp

Finding Food ‘n Stuff — By Jennifer Shipp

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