“Do they bite?”
“No, they won’t bite. Look – I think that one there with the crumb is smiling,” Mr. G replied to his son.
The tiny black ants scurried about, a mass gathering around a crushed cookie laying on the basement carpet.
“There’s so many,” exclaimed Sophie as she lay on the floor, inspecting them closely. She started to count with her forefinger, but one found its way to her hand and crawled across her knuckles. “It tickles!” She laughed in excitement as she jumped to her feet.
“They’re excited now because they found all this food,” her older brother Alex told her.
“Ants are magnificent little creatures,” Mr. G explained to his son and daughter. “They have six legs and gather food to bring back to the Queen, who can live for 30 years. They live in a big place called a colony.”
“Like a castle?” asked Sophie.
“Yes, and they are very strong for being so small.” Mr. G saw that Sophie and Alex were enthralled by the little insects hurrying about, traversing the carpet fibers with ease and speed along their pheromone trail.
Their mother interrupted, calling them upstairs for dinner.
“It’s time for the ants to go home, because they’re very full from all these cookie crumbs,” explained Mr. G.
Alex and Sophie waved goodbye to the ants and ran upstairs. Mr. G stood there for a moment, watching the ants’ chemically-driven coordinated effort – a marvel of biology to be revered. As he watched, he remembered playing with ants when a child with his brother. One summer they discovered a tremendous horde on their driveway. They gave the ants ice cream, which quickly melted into a puddle on the black asphalt.
Mr. G returned to the present and promptly threw the crumbs in the trash. He retrieved the spray canister of ant killer from a closet and glanced upstairs to make sure Alex and Sophie weren’t coming back down. Then he sprayed the ants, drowning them in the toxin, suppressing the notion that he was destroying life. As the ants ceased moving the smell of noxious peppermint suffused the room.
He gathered their soaked corpses with toilet paper, flushed them down the toilet, and sucked up the remaining body parts with a hand vacuum.
“They all went home to go to bed,” he would tell them again, just as he had with the spiders not long ago, and with the family of mice before that.