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Disgusting Wonders of Nature

 My poor daughter Hazel, left alone in the house while I labor in Boston.   First she has to keep the fire going, hauling wood and building it up at night to last through the cold and dark.  Then -- I set mousetraps before leaving, and she called a day later in horror to say that the usually very effective (and mercifully sudden) guillotine-style mousetrap had gone off and caught an unfortunate mouse by the leg; she could hear it in the cupboard thrashing around.  I insisted she open the door, get out the mouse-trap combo, and free the mouse.  My suggestion was to flush the mouse down the toilet, but rather than do that she carried it -- with much crying out in sympathy and disgust -- outside, where she did manage to open the jaw of the trap - whereupon the caught leg came off altogether, and the now three-legged mouse escaped under the house. Her dreams may be haunted by three-legged mice seeking revenge or offering gratitude.

Then when cleaning the bathroom she noticed tiny ants around the tip of the electric toothbrush.  Looked closer:  More ants.  (She hates ants, which don't bother me.)  She pulled off the tip/brush part, and ants poured out.  Then when she bulled the handle part off the charging base THOUSANDS of ants poured out.  It was DISGUSTING.,  What were they DOING in there, stuffed in, COPULATING and making more ants and EATING OLD TOOTHPASTE or what?  I said I thought it was more likely that they got in and couldn't get out -- I explained that ants don't in fact copulate, not workers, and probably one followed another's path, and another that one, and another, and so on, and got in and couldn't get out.  But I really have no idea.  She threw out the whole apparatus, which wasn't cheap.  I will have to replace,.  It is essential for Tooth Health.


( 40 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 7th, 2011 02:39 pm (UTC)
I once ate some waffles. Only after finishing did I notice the hundreds or thousands of dead ants in the syrup.

When I worked in the deep south, my friend had a similar toothbrush experience: she had one of those travel toothbrush tubes, one of the ones that's basically a cylinder with a hole at one end to allow the toothbrush to dry out. Ants got in but must not have been able to get out. She went to get her toothbrush out only, upon opening the tube, to have thousands of ants spill out over her hand.
Apr. 7th, 2011 02:39 pm (UTC)
ants in the toothbrush is like a nightmare of mine. ughh!
Apr. 8th, 2011 01:29 am (UTC)
I would say it's like a nightmare of everybody's. Amazes me how we like to torment ourselves that way in the dark of night.
Apr. 7th, 2011 02:47 pm (UTC)
Wait, what are you doing in Boston?
Apr. 8th, 2011 01:27 am (UTC)
Working on a film biography of Helen Keller, produced and directed by my wife. Want to have a drink 'round Harvard Square sometime? Send me a message.
Apr. 7th, 2011 03:24 pm (UTC)
Do ants eat plaque? Maybe they could've improved your Tooth Health. Very organic, I'm sure.
Apr. 7th, 2011 04:46 pm (UTC)
The ants probably crawled in to eat toothpaste remainders and then stayed for the residual heat from the charging base.
Apr. 8th, 2011 12:55 pm (UTC)
Sounds right, but is toothpaste actually nutritious? It's sweet, but surely that's saccharine.
Apr. 8th, 2011 01:13 pm (UTC)
It depends on the ant. In the prior post I almost mentioned that these might be pharoah ants, as they sounded tiny, and pharoah ants pretty much only need a water source and heat (i.e., eletrical outlet) to be happy. Not that I'm any expert on these guys; my parents had an ongoing battle with them in a kitchen.

But it is confirmed that pharoah ants eat toothpaste (search for toothpaste on the page below and it will take you right to them):
Apr. 8th, 2011 01:25 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the link. Pharaoh ants sounds like they ought to be enormous. But the link shows me that H was likely right -- they WERE nesting in there and making babies. Wow.
Apr. 7th, 2011 05:23 pm (UTC)
Were they those zombie ants that have had their brains taken over by parasitic fungus? That might explain a thing or two.
Apr. 8th, 2011 11:32 am (UTC)
She'll enjoy pondering this possibility. It's April in New England, and ants are everywhere.
Apr. 7th, 2011 05:37 pm (UTC)
jonquil memorably had ants in the iced-water and ice-dispensers of the fridge, so that putting a glass up and pressing resulted in ants coming out just like horror movies only worse because it was in a normal kitchen at night with a drinking glass full of ants arrgh.

I have a rechargeable toothbrush that is sealed and therefore guaranteed ant-free. I never thought of that as being an advantage.

The idea that the ants are in there for the warmth is probably correct. When you get home, get some of the Terro ant bait trays (don't bother with the stuff you pour out on cardboard squares or whatever, it's annoying) and put them around where you have seen ants. You will see more ants visiting for a few days and then fewer and then none.

Arming mousetraps and leaving them for someone else to empty isn't very nice!
Rodger Cunningham
Apr. 8th, 2011 12:21 pm (UTC)
Terro. This reminds me of when my parents got a bottle of it when I was a boy ca. 1960. The bottle came in a cardboard box that, I now realize, must have been designed forty or more years before; it bore instructions in a fascinating variety of immigrant languages. Thinking about it now puts me in mind of E. L. Doctorow. Recent Terro containers lack this. Time marches on.
Apr. 8th, 2011 12:51 pm (UTC)
So did you pour the stuff on cardboard squares, as above?

Where are the bug killers of yesteryear -- "Quick, Henry, the Flit!" Those bombs you set off in a closed house to kill roaches -- you had to leave for a day or two, bringing the dog -- what did it contain? I used a very effective army-surplus one in my NY apartment once. The pyrethrins used to drive them crazy -- spray it in the baseboards and they'd pour out, writhing in agony. The bomb somehow got them to stay home and die, which was better. Then there was the Roach Hotel -- "The roaches check in, but they don't check out!"
Rodger Cunningham
Apr. 8th, 2011 01:08 pm (UTC)
I do seem to remember those cardboard squares. And yes, what terrible things we used in the days of "better" technology before prudence caught up with them. Remember the Shell Pest Strip? Flypaper on steroids. Mustn't hang it around food--duh, where else would you want it? But Terro marches on.
Apr. 8th, 2011 01:20 pm (UTC)
We rented our house to a family from Alabama one summer. They couldn't believe we didn't have air conditioning, and that it wouldn't be needed. In those days there was still a working dairy barn up the road a bit and flies in summer were bad. When we came home the streamers of fly paper in the kitchen were thick with victims. My kids were horrified -- never seen fly paper before.
Apr. 8th, 2011 11:14 pm (UTC)
I treasure really old packaging design like that. Office supplies seem particularly conservative---a lot of things like the Bostich staple box didn't change for years until someone updated them quite recently. I think it was Tibor Kalmann who called it "vernacular design"---I was pleased to know there's a term for it.
Apr. 9th, 2011 10:50 am (UTC)
Oh I love it too -- there is another thing that needs a name, the nostalgia for things or processes that were inherently clumsy or inefficient or required a skill to use that went undescribed in the instructions, and that were housed in dour packaging that lowered the soul in a highly amusing way. Mastering a mimeograph machine or a vacuum-tube radio or disentangling a Bostitch from a jammed staple. Ben Katchor, whose new book "The Cardboard Valise" I am reading for review, is wonderful about this. It's almost his only subject.
Apr. 9th, 2011 05:58 pm (UTC)
My favorite Ben Katchor story is the one about the cast-iron newspaper weights.
Apr. 7th, 2011 09:23 pm (UTC)
Wow...that's just....meep?

Cats eat ants you know. ;)
Apr. 8th, 2011 11:33 am (UTC)
Not enough to make a difference. For that you need an Austrailian anteater. Which makes a loving pet, as people who keep one say (though they are very rare.)
Apr. 8th, 2011 09:54 pm (UTC)
Heh! Well, they certainly clean up after themselves from all accounts. And they are quite amazing to watch, even just walking along. Wonderful how nature produces such creatures.

As for the ants and toothbrushes....your story inspired me to break out a new toothbrush. ;)
Apr. 8th, 2011 12:21 am (UTC)
I've dealt with three-legged, tailess-mice; large and miniature ants in everything from cookie jars to odorized Female Protection Pads, but in ordinary domestic experience nothing quite gets a dull dinner party going as the introduction of a flitting bat or two.
Apr. 8th, 2011 11:37 am (UTC)
When your message arrived in my email inbox Gmail supplied next to it a couple of links to bat-removal services. One in my house flew around so long that he became exhausted, stopped on the mantelpiece, where I covered him with a hat (A bat in a hat!) and slid him out the door. Sometimes they have rabies, I think... Or white-nose disease. I myself have red-nose disease (rosacea) yet I can live a normal and useful life
Apr. 8th, 2011 10:08 am (UTC)
creepy crawly, as the Who used to sing.
Apr. 8th, 2011 11:39 am (UTC)
Individual ants i find undisturbing, even two or three. Its when they pour forth in sudden irrational masses that they become repulsive. Same with humans.
Apr. 8th, 2011 11:22 am (UTC)
The horror!

Somebody could use the toothbrush incident and the refrigerator one to update Leiningen versus the Ants.

Edited at 2011-04-08 11:22 am (UTC)
Apr. 8th, 2011 11:41 am (UTC)
I had a student once who wrote a horror story about meal moths, the softest and least offensive of insects, almost too easy to kill. He tried to make them frighteningly vengeful. It didn't work. On the other hand there's nothing like opening a container of flour (or chili powder!) and find it writhing with meal-moth caterpillars.
Apr. 9th, 2011 09:38 pm (UTC)
Ugh I had to get rid of a bag of dried chillis due to them. Along with all the pasta and flour except the corn flour which was in a tin. Now everything is in variations of kilner jars.
(Deleted comment)
Apr. 10th, 2011 03:42 am (UTC)
But if they WERE trapped inside, then she saved their entire civilization.
Apr. 10th, 2011 06:26 pm (UTC)
I was untroubled by the yellow-jacket nest near our front door until my wife was stung by one, had a severe anaphylactic reaction & I had to rush her 40 miles to the nearest medic.
I was also untroubled by the big black carpenter ants in my woodpile, until I determined their interest had extended to one of the posts supporting my front porch. The tiny ants near the kitchen island weren't really a bother, until I discovered then pouring out of the electric heater in an unending stream. And when you see one beetle you know you'll soon find another The same goes for field mice, squirrels, woodpeckers, porcupines, skunks, badgers, bears, bats and wolves. At one time or another all of the above have gained entry to my cabin in the woods (except for the bears and wolves, who just hang around)- which, of course one expects, given the environs.
Exterminators when consulted offer the same opinion - if you don't want the critters in your home, then don't invite them in- like in-laws.
So every spring (once the snow melts), I spray around the foundation with one of the many outdoor barrier treatments you can find in any market. This keeps out ants, beetles, spiders, millipedes and just about anything else that crawls. I zap the assorted stinging insect nests in the eaves as soon as I detect them. I've sealed all observable points of entry against the assorted aforementioned mammals and birds but nothing, nothing I've tried has been useful against the bats, which live in the attack by the hundreds.
Apr. 11th, 2011 03:11 pm (UTC)
Apr. 12th, 2011 06:33 am (UTC)
ants & bugs
Some indians from the Amazonas use a special sort of ants to stitch wounds - very useful animals! I personally dislike flying insects , that's tridimensional horror. Like these oh-so-cute ladybugs...has anyone ever looked at the black sinister underside of these devilish creatures? *shudder*
Apr. 12th, 2011 10:10 am (UTC)
Re: ants & bugs
I don't mind ladybugs, darning-needles, bummblebees, even wasps (though I'm unsettled by yellow-jackets, having been badly stung by a horde as a child) -- but I loathe flies. Common houseflies I mean. My gorge rises (whatever that exactly means) and I must rid the place of them.
Apr. 12th, 2011 09:53 pm (UTC)
Re: ants & bugs
If I had to deal with palmetto bugs, I would carry my sidearm everywhere.
Apr. 12th, 2011 06:43 am (UTC)
Late to catching up on LJ but ROTFL. (sorry)
Apr. 27th, 2011 10:32 pm (UTC)
natural horrors

I have been searching for your phone number to avoid having to send a permission slip to Random House so I can satisfy my editor (Sentient Books) that I have the right to include two magnificent quotes of yours on dreaming in a chapter on storytelling and dreams. Can you give me permission??

But reading this weird and child horrifying event in your home .. reminded me of an incident with my son. My son is adopted from West Africa. He is now, by the way, a best selling author (Ishmael Beah, A Long Way Gone). When he first arrived I had an influx of over sized DISGUSTING water bugs that loved the inside of my bathtub. they were growing at a rapid rate. One night there were two and I was terrified to enter the bathroom. I knocked on Ishmael's door begging for "an African hunter wanted in the bathroom to save a mother's life." He went in with a broom and a dustbin. I went to my bedroom to wait. He then came into the bedroom carrying one and proceeded to chase me around the house singing on the top of his lungs and laughing madly. He finally flushed it and we ended up in reems of giggles in the kitchen in the middle of the night talking about our lives. Let me know .. The quotes are from Aegypt. thank you for the beauty of your writing. Laura Simms
Apr. 28th, 2011 01:33 am (UTC)
Re: natural horrors
Send me a note on LJ's Private Message feature if you can and I will respond.
( 40 comments — Leave a comment )