The Ants Go Marching One by One


Ant cookie from The bearfoot Baker.

This blog needs a good airing. Let me set aside all things books, open the window, and allow some fresh air and sunshine to come in. Yes, the sun is shining today. It will be raining and snowing again tomorrow, but for today, there is a glimpse of spring, and I’m pretending it’s much warmer than the 40 degrees on the thermometer.

So what shall we talk about?

I choose insects as the topic for today, because I seem to have a history with ants. It all started when I was a child, and a Saturday morning rolled around. My mother came into the room I shared with my older sister. She had called for us to wake up a few times, but we had ignored her, and by coming into the room, we knew she meant business. There were chores to be done before we could take off on our bikes for the day.

I remember Mom standing there staring at me with her mouth open and a deep frown on her face. What? What did I do now? I wasn’t even out of bed yet.

“What do you have all over you?” she asked.

I sat up, focused on my bed, and promptly bolted up into a standing position and started jumping and hopping on my bed, while screaming and writhing with the heebie-jeebies. My bed, and therefore me, too, was covered with ants!

The source was soon discovered. Before going to bed, I had tossed my sneakers into the nearby closet, and they had something sweet on them. Whether it was something I had stepped in, or something I had climbed into via a tree, there were a million ants in my closet, and they had come up onto and into my bed.

Thankfully, they were the garden variety ant and not the biting kind.

Moving on.

When I was nineteen, I moved into my first apartment. It was a basement apartment in a large complex, and it was basically one big room with one door leading into a small bathroom. There was very little counter space, so when I wanted to make sugar cookie cutouts at Christmas, there wasn’t room to cool the massive amount of cookies I was baking. I spread a clean tablecloth out on the living room floor, and as the cookies came out of the oven, I transferred them from the cookie sheets to the tablecloth.

Imagine my surprise when after a time, the cookies appeared to be decorating themselves.  Yep, an army of ants had invaded and covered nearly half of the cookies. It was winter for crying out loud!

Some of you know we homeschooled our son. Rather than to give in to the recommendations of Imageour local school and medicate the hyper boy, I quit my job to stay home and school him myself. I didn’t have a clue how to start, but I figured it out, and we had a blast. A lot of our studies were done by focusing on one thing at a time – unit studies.

One summer, we did a unit study on ants. We started by setting up an ant farm in the house. Those kits are actually very cool. We started a war in our ant farm by putting a couple of big black ants in with the smaller common ants. We didn’t know they weren’t compatible, and the little ants attacked the big ants, overtook them in quick order, and threw their dead bodies onto the garbage heap at the side of the farm. It was somewhat horrifying to me, but the boy loved it.

One day we went sugaring for ants. We made ant bait by mashing a banana and stirring in a good amount of sugar. We smeared the bait onto the base of a tree trunk, and then we settled into lawn chairs to watch and wait for the ants to come. It took an hour before we noticed a steady stream of ants marching to the banana mash and then back to their anthill. There appeared to be more than one colony coming from different directions, and they truly did march single file, one by one. It was amazing.

ImageSo, ants and I share a long history.

How about you? Tell me your best insect story? Have you ever had ants in your pants?

104 thoughts on “The Ants Go Marching One by One

  1. hehehe ants in your pants. That was funny Maddie, but I imagine a bit freaky to a kid. I’ve had my fair share of run ins with ants. When I was living in Texas the fire ants were the trouble makers. At the time I didn’t have a clothes dryer, just a washer, so I had to hang my clothes on a line outside. Well of course during the hot summer months it didn’t take any time to dry those clothes! Even jeans! So I went to gather the cloths off the line. I hadn’t noticed the fire ant hill under the line before, so I just went about my business. My dog at the time kept barking at me and I thought she wanted to play! Nope, she was warning me about the ant hill on one side of the clothes line that I was moving toward. Believe me if dogs are smart they learn about fire ants fast!

    Well I just kept gathering the clothes and laughing at my dog when I started noticing something moving in my clean clothes! Those pesky nasty fire breathing tiny ants were all over them! No wonder the dog kept barking at me and the clothes basket! I was just too dumb to listen. Needless to say I had a heck of a time shaking all those clothes out and gathering the last few! Of course I had no ant spray in the house so I had to make due with bleach. Yeah I know, bleach is not good for the ground. I had to save my clothes though. Bleached the heck out of that ant hill, they left and never came back too! Ouch though when I didn’t shake them all out of the clothes and few got past and bit me. It does sting like fire!

    • I suspect the fire ants in Texas are a lot bigger than the fire ants in Ohio. We do have some that are quite small. They are usually under logs, and they have a nasty bite, but we generally have a normal, common ant, and then a larger black ant. I have no idea what either are called, but they hate each other. That’s really something about your dog trying to warn you.

      • Oh we had really small ants too, most called them ‘piss ants’, and the big black ones I think are called ‘carpenter ants’ and they too can bite. Down south most of the fire ants bred with the local ants so they are almost impossible to kill. Yeah my dog at the time was pretty smart. Her name was Tazzie named after the Tasmanian Devil cartoon. I usually just called her Taz.

    • How did you get rid of them naturally? We chased them around for several years, trying everything to get rid of them, but finally had to throw in the towel and call a company to put bait traps around the house. It was very expensive, but they were gone quickly and never came back.

      • Ants, there are certain scents they don’t like. I started keeping lots of fresh herbs in the kitchen. Also you can put out honey on a small cardboard. Use something like diatomaceous earth with it. That is something my husband and I use as well – helps clean out your colon, but any hard shelled insects can’t tolerate it.
        Termites – we cleared up all the damp spots under our house. They had started as a result of a water heater leak we didn’t know about.

        • Thank you for the information. We had to take care of damp areas as well. Our biggest problem was from railroad ties the previous owner used for landscaping around the house. They seemed to draw the termites to the property. Before the two houses next to ours were remodeled, they were riddled with termites. The company who finally took care of ours told us that they were treating most of the houses on our street. We were living in a termite paradise.

  2. I once sat on a stool in the shed that had a fire ant nest in it (no Maddy, I didn’t do it on purpose!) 😉 LOL – they are tough little ratbags and I certainly had ants in my pants that day! 😀

    • It’s after 7:00. I’m heading to the kitchen for the gin. I’ve heard it’s good for a sore throat. Btw, the Indians have a team this year, so methinks your team will not have another crack at the series this year. I’m just sayin’.

          • Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!

            Did I read that correctly? The Indians taking the Central over the Tigers??? Hang on a second, I’m laughing so hard right now that I just might hurl! I’ll be back!


            • Hahaha … I deleted a couple of comments, and Tim and I are sort of hanging down here at the bottom of the pile. But you found us!! 🙂

              Hey, the Indians finally spent some money for players, and if the pitching comes through, they could be contenders! They are finally having some fun, too. They learned the Harlem Shake. That’s good for the Central win over the Tigers.

              You may laugh, but no hurling, please.

                    • Adam, I am prepared for my avatar to wear a Detroit baseball cap for a week as well as to do a blog post extolling the virtues of you personally and the Detroit Tigers. You should prepare as well – just in case.

                      We spent the day with my 81-year-old mother who is a diehard Indians fan. She knows all things baseball, and she’s excited for opening day. Cheerfully, I asked her, “So, do you think the Indians will win the Central this year?” She shook her head no. WHAT?!! I asked why, and she said, “Detroit has too many good players. The Indians will do better this year, but they won’t win the Central. Not when Detroit has such a strong team.” My husband and I looked at each other and laughed. He knew I had already stepped in it with you. But it’s never over until the fat lady sings. See you in the fall!

                    • Your Grandmother is a wise woman. I’m going to enjoy this thoroughly! I think you’ll look good with an Old English D on your head. Everyone else does. 😉

  3. Every year the spring rains bring ants and the fight begins. Last year I witnessed a dog morsel WALKING across the kitchen tile. I then screamed for hubby to come see as it was amazing to me. Then I KILLED them. 😉

    And btw…when I was little I DID get ants in my pants. I sat in the ant bed. Bugs are not my friends! 🙂

    • An ant alone isn’t such a creepy thing, but when they are in clusters, or there are a million of them, they give me the willies. It’s amazing how much weight a tiny ant can carry. And I’m glad I’m not the only one to have ever had ants in my pants. 🙂

      • If they only came in singles! I do love the song though….Just what make that little ole ant, think he can move that rubber tree plant? Everyone knows an ant. can’t. move a rubber tree plant. But he’s got….HIGH HOPES ♪ ♫ ♪

  4. June bugs flying in my hair and attaching themselves to my lip…my least favorite bug. We used to have scorpions too. I woke up at least three different times with one in my bed as a kid, but I can only remember being stung once. Yuck!

    • Oh, now a scorpion would be way beyond what I could handle. You just gave me a full-body shiver! I don’t like June bugs either. They cluster around our back door light, and I’ve come in several times with a June bug in my hair after taking out a dog. Never had one on my lip though. 😉

  5. 40 degrees Farenheit is 4 degrees celsius. I looked it up. For a moment there I thought of the 40 degree days we’d been happening before the heat wave broke.
    Ants used to turn up in my bathroom regularly. I think they liked the toothpaste. Must have some sugar in it. I used to love lying on my stomach on the ground and watch ants moving bits of food to their nest. Little did I know back then what pests they would become. 🙂

    • Ack! Roaches! I let friends talk me into sleeping in an abandoned house once. We were all in sleeping bags. I woke in the middle of the night to strange critters (may have been roaches) and rats scurrying all around me. Shiver me timbers!!

  6. I love that you homeschooled your son instead of medicating him 🙂
    We have an ant problem in the kitchen right now and I’d rather not think about them thank you.

    Ps the Tigers here, a football team, are doing really well right now 🙂 (We have no ‘Indians’ team but we do have Cowboys and they always do well)

    • We live in a part of the state which has all major sports. It’s kind of fun. Tigers for Tim, and I’ll take some Cowboys. 😉 I used to watch football with my dad on Sundays. I’d show up in the living room and ask him who he was rooting for, and he always said the same thing: “Whoever has the ball.” I guess he just liked offense. 🙂

  7. Have you ever seen a katydid, Maddie? They rarely make contact with humans and are more heard than seen. Anyway, one of those is the reason I’m terrified of about 90% of insects.
    When I was about 5 years old, I was playing outside on my street under a huge tree nearby my neighbor’s parked car. When I focused on this enormous bug that resembled a leaf. I knew it was an insect right away & immediately felt threatened by it, because it was theatened by me. I guess we sensed one another. It readied its back legs & I froze out of fear and childish curiousity and it made this loud hissing/chirping noise & flew directly at my face. I flicked it away so hard & ran screaming into my house. I swear, I think that thing gave me nightmares for a week!

    • I have probably seen a katydid (some say they are just grasshoppers, and we used to have a ton of them around our home when I was a kid), but Rich said we don’t have too many around here. We are overrun with locusts, and they are noisy! At least he says they are locusts; I think they are cicadas — and then I read they are basically the same insect. Anyway, I would have been freaked out as a child, too, if an insect attacked me, and I apologize because your story made me smile. 🙂

  8. Entertaining and informative 🙂 I am not a fan of insects and try my best to avoid them. Mosquitoes love my blood and centipedes scare the hell out of me. Spiders are something I cannot stand and I’m such a wimp.

    The idea of an ant farm is suddenly fascinating and it sounds like you had a blast with it.

    • Mosquitoes are attracted to my husband, too! They don’t bother me. I haven’t figured that out yet why some people are natural food for mosquitoes. Centipedes are pretty creepy, but I’m ok with spiders if they aren’t too big. This old house is a magnet for spiders, and after our son made his bedroom in a finished room in the basement, he really had to deal with them, and he woke up with spider bites several times. Some took a long time to heal.

      The ant farm was very cool. Later we went on to have a worm box in the house. It had a plexiglass side so we could see them. Rich made it for us, and by the time we dumped it into the garden, the number of worms had a least tripled. Science was never boring here. 🙂

      • Gahh! Okay, so you reminded me of my spider horror story. I was living in Maryland as a live-in nanny, first time ever on the east coast. I was cleaning the house when I found this HUGE leggy spider in the dining room. Google, cellar door spider. Refused to go near the room. Eww…worms….

        I think mosquitoes like certain types of blood…

      • Our backyard is rather natural……deer and stuff. The ant piles are there. If you step on one, the ants are up your pant leg and inside quickly. They are just doing what comes naturally …. biting and stinging. Not fun.

        • Oh my! I love the deer part, but the thought of ants running up my pant leg and biting would have me jumping around outside and whipping my pants off. That’s a terrible YouTube moment – unless you don’t have any neighbors to see and capture the video.

  9. Never had ants in my pants, but I do have a healthy hatred of all insect life in general. I’m a firm believer in the my space / your space theory (which, yes, I just invented on the spot). This theory proclaims that so long as insects remain in their domain (i.e., nowhere near me), then they’re free to live in all their buggy glory. But heaven forbid they enter my domain, and I will hunt them down without mercy.

  10. Some ants got into a bottle of vinegar that I had, a few days later I realised that I was sprinkling vinegar and pickled ants onto my dinner.. What I will never know is how many I ate before I realised 😀

    • Oh, that’s disgusting!! Although people do eat chocolate covered ants, so your pickled ones were probably just fine, and maybe even good for you.

      I once put a little too much celery seed in the filling for my deviled eggs. Rich kept complaining about the “crunch.” We like deviled eggs (the menfolk more than me), so they were being eaten at a fairly good clip. I pulled out the tin of celery seed and poured some out. There was some type of dead, hard-shelled bug all through it. I nearly thew up!! I HATE EGGS IN THE FIRST PLACE!

  11. Sadly, my insect story isn’t as happy as yours. My son stepped on a fire ant hill in Louisiana. His legs blew up into swollen, painful stumps. We didn’t know what had happened until the doctors told us. Poor kid. 😦

    • Oh, the poor boy! That must have been rough for all of you. What’s the treatment for so many bites like that? I worried about a few of the spider bites our son endured, and we thought about running to the doctor for a couple of them. They were really ugly. It was hard not knowing what type of spider bit him when there are some nasty spiders here in Ohio.

  12. What a brilliant idea for a post, Maddie, nice work! 🙂 Funnily enough, our next door neighbours have terrible bother with ants in their house. I was horrified when my former neighbour puffed ant killer powder all over a pile at her door (incidentally, she also sprayed the stuff all over my foot).

    But you’re talking to a girl with a creepy crawly Spineless Wonders blog, so I probably have lots of stories…! (Cyril and Willy will be back soon, by the way!) Hmm… that’s a thinker. The most horrific thing I’ve ever had the misfortune of seeing was a spider eating the guts out of a centipede. That really turned my stomach and it took ages for me to stop imagining it!

      • But, on a plus, the webs are so beautiful and ornate. I love seeing clear (!) webs on a frosty morning, they look so fabulous. Spiders really do freak me out. I think about them more often than I should!

        I’m so pleased that you’re glad to have The Boys back. I owe a post for today, so will go and do that now! 🙂

  13. hi, loved this post.
    I have never harmed an animal in my life, or so I thought until my mother put me right.
    She told me that I was an excellent ant exterminator when still a very young child. She once found me squashing a series of ants and then placing the dead bodies to dry on a radiator.
    I really couldn’t bring myself to do it now, but then again I just don’t get the time…

    • Oh my! I wonder what must have been going through your young mind to want to dry the ants on the radiator? There’s something very cute about that when you think about it.

      I, too, hate to kill anything, and have been known to cry buckets when a rabbit, squirrel, bird – or any type of critter has bolted in front of my vehicle and been hit.

  14. Once I was standing outside the church when I noticed fire ants on my hands. I was covered, I had to run inside to an empty room amd take my suit off. I couldn’t get nekkid right there in the parkin’ lot full of people but I did think about it.

    • Wow, Bo. I’ve never lived anywhere to have to deal with fire ants like that. It sounds like they are very fast.

      If you would’ve gotten nekkid in the parking lot, I’m sure all the ladies would have been clucking and doing a lot of “my, my, my”ing while some would be thinking you were doing a church dance, and they would be shouting, “Hallelujah!” The menfolk would just be laughing.

      Ok, that was a fun visual. Thanks for the entertainment!

  15. I’m not generally afraid or disgusted by ants, but I think I would freak out if I woke up covered by them! I would feel them crawling all over me for days. D=

    However, I’m afraid of roaches. I remember one time being alone at home and a flying roach came in. I panicked. I did not know how to kill it and I was afraid to use the bug spray for fear of it getting crazy on me. So I did the next best thing and locked myself in the kitchen… armed with a broom… till 4 a.m. I did not sleep a wink that night. And no, I never did find that roach.

    • A flying roach?! Yikes! I never knew there were ones that could fly. That would creep me out, too. You couldn’t go to bed. What if it came in there and crawled on you?! I read somewhere that the average person ingests 2-3 spiders per year because they crawl in their mouths when they’re sleeping!

      Zen, we had a BAT in the house once. It came in through the attic and somehow made its way into the bedroom. We managed to chase it downstairs, and Rich went all Rambo with a broom, but he never connected. I finally opened the back door, and it simply flew out. I never want to go through that again!

  16. For whatever reason, I don’t like wasps .. thus I get a bit nervous when one appears in the house … and usually my wife comes to the rescue. But one day I had to fend for myself as I came home from your to find about 30 of them in our living room. It was an ordeal, but I got them all!

    • You are a brave man, Frank. Thirty wasps and dealing with them all by yourself – how did you do it? I would have freaked! I had one wasp fly down the front of my bathing suit once. Thankfully, it was a one-piece, and I was able to grab the offending critter in the material while dashing off to the ladies room. The thought of whipping off a top at a public pool was not a pleasant one for me. 😉

      I’ll be by to catch up with you this weekend. It’s been busy around here.

      • Well … because I was alone, I had to take them one by one with swatter in hand and spray when necessary. In terms of the wasp in the bathing suit — simply YIKES!

    • I haven’t had much of a chance to get in here lately, Mike, but I read this when you first posted it and laughed out loud. You and turtles!! But I truly understand how it happened. 😉

  17. When I read about the ants in your bed, I was antsy to tell you that this was a nice post (I was away for five days).

    • LOL! Nice play on words. I’ve had other things taking me away from the blogging world, but will check in on you this weekend to see what lovely words you have recently posted. 🙂

  18. once i was eating burger than suddenly i realized that there’s ants in it 😛 , buaahh buaahh , i have to throw it =_= thinking >that i already had some ants with yummy burger 😛

    • Hi Parth! Thanks for stopping by. I would scream if I was eating a burger and saw it had ants in it!

      I took a quick look at your blog and see you recently wrote about spiders, and you have pictures of dogs. 🙂 I’ll stop by soon to read some of your posts.

    • Hi Dallas. I’m running behind these days.

      I think that is probably one of the nice things about where we live. The snakes and insects aren’t too creepy. Everything is pretty well tolerable and manageable. A giant spider would keep me awake for the rest of my life! I don’t ever want to see one.

  19. I don’t have any insect stories from personal experience, but every once in awhile a guest will bring an inscet from home in a baggie and claim to have found it in their room.
    As far as scams go, it’s an oldie but a goodie.

    • Hi Hook! I would never, ever, ever, think to bring a critter from home and blame it on the hotel. People are amazing creatures themselves, aren’t they?

      So sorry to have missed you lately, but have been pretty much offline while taking care of my work-from-home business. Will catch up with you this weekend!

  20. Maddie – ants rank right up there with mosquitoes and ticks. What useful purpose do they serve? I came into our bathroom one night and one corner of the room was overtaken by ants. Absolutely disgusting! I had to spray and spray, then sweep, spray again, sweep again. We have never figured out how ants get into our bathroom, but they are so small, they could get any almost anywhere. We get them most often when it’s hot and dry. Ugh!

    • We’ve had insects come in during very hot and dry weather, and they do seem to be making their way to the bathroom. Maybe they sense the water source. My dad used to spend a lot of time in fields with his job, and he came home with plenty of ticks and chiggers! I’m so glad I never had either.

  21. I’ve been checking your blog to see if you’ve posted something new and have been pleased to note that you are too busy working on your next book to do so. Keep it up, Maddie. 🙂

    • Hi Mary! I haven’t been reading or writing for quite a while as I’ve been taking care of the work-from-home business. It’s all good news though, and I’ll probably write about it soon. In the meantime, I’m planning to take time this weekend to catch up with everyone and will see you then! 🙂

    • Charlie, you are right! The Orkin man says, “Ants leave an invisible chemical trail which contains pheromones for others to follow once they locate the food source.” … I probably knew that at one time but forgot. I do remember the entire ant study as being fascinating. Our son was freaked out for a while when we read that in some tropical places there are flesh-eating ants, and the people sleep with their bed legs in cans of gas so ants will fall into the gas and die before reaching the bed leg to climb up. I think the simple term for them is Army Ants. I don’t want to live anywhere where I am part of the food chain!

    • Hi Bob!! I’m coming to Tasmania tomorrow to see what you all have been up to.

      Yeh, where were you when I was a kid and needed help with all of those ants in my bed?! Do you eat termites? You could have saved me $1,000 if you would have shown up at my house two years ago.

      Next time I have a problem, I’ll send an airplane ticket to you! 🙂

  22. My first question is …..did you make those cookies, they’re beautiful !!!!
    I must admit I can’t stand ants. You could put me in a room full of snakes and I wouldn’t care, but put me in with a bunch of ants I wouldn’t be able to handle it. We had termites years ago and had to have the pros come in and spray. Plus we had to replace an area that had damp wood and was rotting. I sure don’t like all the expense that goes along with termites and ants.

    • No, the cookies and directions are on the site: Wouldn’t they be perfect for your family get-together this summer! 🙂

      The termite fiasco is still costing us. We pay annually now for a company to come out and check for activity and make sure the bait traps are loaded.

      How you can tolerate snakes is a mystery to me!! I would be frozen in place with fear if I was in a room with a snake. I have no idea why they scare me so much, but I can’t even look at them in pictures! If I get a snake, I’ll call you. If you get ants, you call me. 🙂

  23. Ha ha!! I remember dedicating a post on my blog to these tiny creatures too… I’ve never had ants in my pants (hey, that rhymes!!) , but I did draw in a mouthful of them from a straw that was full of them… And it was not a very enviable situation!! But was apparently a very funny one for those around me!! 😉
    Lovely post!

  24. Great read!! I must say… I enjoy watching the little fellas as well. What does the Good Book say about what the lazy man should do? Anyway, your post also reminds me of the great Dave Matthews Band song ‘Ants Go Marching! 😉 Maybe you should add the soundtrack?

    • “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise.” 😉 The ant farm was interesting, because where I had always assumed they would be continuously active, they certainly did have times of rest. In the picture, they were all gathered at the top, while just a few ants below continued working.

      Dave Matthews coming up!!

  25. What a funny post, and lots of replies! I have two good ant stories. We lived in a walnut grove – need I say more? Ants and walnuts are best friends, but being from the city, who knew – not me. I went out gleaning one day without a sack, so I used my shirt and made a little pouch to collect just a few walnuts. I had gotten a little ways into the field before I felt itchy. When I looked down, you know what I saw, and I made it back to the house with no walnuts and almost no shirt. The second story took place in the same house. The ants got tired of soggy walnuts in the winter and spring months and invaded my Christmas ornament boxes in the top shelves of a never used closet. When I had my dad, who was visiting, get them down for me, the whole box buzzed at us. We couldn’t believe that they even ate paint off the ornaments. What a mess!

    • Hi Marsha! Great stories! I would have totally done what you did with the walnuts, but I would have included screaming. 😉 I can’t believe the box with ornaments was buzzing!! Well, I can, but that creeps me out so much. There must have been so many of them.

      I just got back from looking around your blog. I love your header! That picture with the cookies is hilarious. I have to follow you now. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s