Thursday, March 8, 2012


I have never seen so many ants in such a small space in my life. Those little sugar ants. At least a gazillion dexabillion of them.

We've got a box screwed to side of our fence that remotely operates the gate that sits between our carport and the road. Last week it started to respond poorly to entreaties from our remote transmitter to open and/or close. We've been through this at least once before, so I knew to go get a new power cell for the thing (which, btw, is the size of a car battery!). I replaced it, tried out all the transmitters, and everything was working great. Job well done.

Yesterday, after a couple of days when no one drove the cars, and therefore, no one used the gate, I got in the car, hit the button and... nothing happened (hrmmm... like in a Colin Hay song...). Tried a different remote. Nothing. Tried all the different remotes (for some reason, we have six of them). Zip. Nada. Zero. Zilch. Nix. Squat.

Well, I didn't have time to deal with it yesterday. Actually, I didn't have time to deal with it today, either, but I tackled the job anyway. At least the weather was nice, and tomorrow it might rain (as it turned out, it's raining now, as I type this), so I figured I better get on it while the gettin's good.

First, I cut off all the power to the whole unit, and then opened it up and rather quickly noticed that there were some ants in there that hadn't been there the other day. A lot of ants.

But even then, I had no idea how many were really there. My little project was about to become a scene from a horror movie.

First I pulled the receiver off the back wall inside the unit. It's a little box with a circuit board inside that's attached by coax to the antenna on the outside of the larger unit. I opened up that little box and ants spilled out all over the place. It was like an ant bomb had exploded in my hands. BOOM. I wish I had had the time and presence of mind to take a picture.

I sprayed the box out with compressed air, but the ants kept reappearing. I'd blow them to oblivion, but there would still be more of them. Over and over again.

Instead of playing a long whack-a-mole game with these little beasts, I found a tiny screwdriver to take out the tiny screw that held the circuit board onto the back of the box and... wow. There were even more ants under that thing than there had been on top of it. Damn.

I kept blasting the thing with more compressed air, and at this point, I also started spraying peppermint oil on everything that wasn't electronic and/or sensitive circuits (I've had good luck with it in the past with regard to deterring sugar ants), hoping that the receiver might still be salvageable.

Before starting to reassemble it all, I tried to make sure that there weren't all that many ants left in the unit. But I kept finding more of them. And more and more. I checked the cables leading up to the unit from the fence and the ground, but the peppermint oil that was coating them seemed to be keeping away any return visitors. That there were no ants on the fence. So, where were all these ants I was still seeing coming from?

Then I lifted up the battery. OMFG. This was the biggest colony of ants yet. A magillion kadrillion bazillion ants. The Manila of ant encampments.

Long-story-not-quite-so-long, I'm out of compressed air, there are a lot of dead and dislocated ants out there, the fence around the box is now saturated in peppermint oil, and the ground below the fence is buried in borax. But with the ants banished from the operator unit, lo and behold, the receiver works again! I'll have to keep a watchful eye on the situation, and maybe reapply the peppermint oil and borax after the rain, but hopefully I've taken that battlefield back from the ants for good.

But still I wonder... how is it possible for that many ants to have assembled in just three days?!? There were none, I am sure, when I put that new battery in on Monday afternoon. Then, BOOM. So many ants.

And now, several hours, a 2-mile run and a shower later, I still feel creepy crawlies on my skin. And I'm afraid I may dream about bugs tonight.

But at least tomorrow is the weekend. An end to a very long and difficult week.

I hate ants.

1 comment:

Keera Ann Fox said...

I love all your number words. Dexabillion is a new one.

Good luck with the ants!