When Reggie sent me the following anecdote and suggested it might be a good blog post for a day when I was uninspired, I was hesitant. Did Reggie peeing in a composter really fit into the tenor of my blog, where the harshest occasional word is “damn?” Since Reggie has a part-time home here on the blog and a man’s home is still his castle, why not? With no further adieu, here’s a fiery tale from Florida.
For those of you who don’t hang on my every word as Julie’s occasional guest columnist, I don’t live in Maine these days. I live in Florida. If you don’t suffer the Maine winter, you don’t deserve the Maine summer. And if you don’t suffer the Florida summer, you don’t deserve the Florida winter. My goal in life is to avoid paying either of those prices, but the piper will always be paid.
I have 55-gallon drum converted into a composter. It hasn’t heated up that well, no surprise without horse manure, so tonight when my bladder was full I decided to give it a nitrogen boost and strolled out into the lovely evening to juice it a bit, you might say. Since the composter rests on its side, I rocked it back and forth to get the lid to the top, crushing the grass beneath and releasing a lovely fragrance. As I stood there in the warm Florida evening relieving myself, I felt the mosquito bite on my ankle. The mosquitoes here are ankle biters, so when I finished I reached down to swat it and then stepped away.
I never closed the lid. It wasn’t a mosquito.
It was a fire ant.
And there’s never just one fire ant.
All of a sudden I had a burning all around my ankle as at least three more ants joined in. I could feel them half way up my calves because fire ants make sure to spread out before they attack, and I began brushing them away as fast as I could. One bit me behind the knee, but nowhere higher, thankfully, except the ones brushed off the legs bit the hands.
In the dark I couldn’t assess how bad my peril was, but I knew it was bad. I raced for the house and knew my next destination was the tub. With every step I know I dropped fire ants and they are all through the house now.
At the tub I peeled off my ratty old sneakers. I smacked them over the tub, hot water running, and at least a dozen went for a swim. On the floor where I had removed them were at least a dozen more, and a half-dozen were still on my feet. I killed the last batch first, but not before another bit between my pinky and that toe beside the pinky (does it have a name? No roast beef?).
While trying to kill the ones on the floor with toilet paper (they don’t die when you squash them, but they will stick to the TP, which gives one the option of throwing them into a steaming tub), another bit between my fingers, another on top of my other hand. I brushed a few more off my arms, and then back to my feet, which had somehow acquired more.
My sneakers stood on the edge of the tub, and even without my cheaters I could see that they were literally crawling with ants. Literally. I started a load in the washing machine and then came back with sticks for the shoes. Extra rinse, and no doubt some of the bastards will survive even that.
I had earlier wiped at least a dozen ants off the floor. Now there were at least a dozen more, and some of the swimmers were finding their way up the side. My tub’s shower attachment finished the climbers, and TP got the ones on the floor.
I filled a bucket with water as hot as came out of the faucet and stuck my feet in it. I jammed both hands in as well, and watched an ant fighting the swirling current in the tub. I admired his tenacity, but his only nature is to bite in concert with all his fellow ants, and the sooner he went down the drain, the better. On the floor I could see another, but only one, and he was gone by the time I got out of the tub.
I rubbed it thick on the bites, and started popping the pills as well. That warning the manufacturer puts on saying not to use Benadryl both topically and internally? Rubbish. Fire ant bites normally don’t affect me much, but this many bites at once requires histamines hitting hard from every side.
Scotch, too. Use every weapon in the arsenal.
Tomorrow at dawn, or as soon as the Benadryl wears off, they die. I have DE powder laced with organic insecticide (kills just as dead as the inorganic stuff, which should give one pause when praising organic as insecticide free), and it works on these buggers.
Tomorrow at dawn.
They’re all dead, too. But I’ve killed at least three fire ant nests a week in that part of the yard since this incident.