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Saturday, January 23, 2016

Steven King meets Harry Potter: Attack of the Killer Ants...

Well it’s been an exciting week here in Yelapa highlighted by the attack of the killer ants.  There are ants and there are ants… and then there’s Yelapa ants. These ants travel in huge columns – like soldiers on the march – devouring everything   (Veni, Vici, Comi” (I came, I saw, I ate)…   and I mean everything in sight.

How scary are they?   Check out this on the internet.

I don’t mind the odd ant or two in the house, but when they are pouring in as if shot out of a garden hose,  it’s downright disconcerting.  Remember Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds?”   Instead of birds imagine ants.  Last Friday night as I was preparing dinner  Michele pointed to the kitchen window. Pouring through a crack in the casement was a torrent of ants – thousands of them.  In the few seconds they marched up the wall towards the ceiling.   The wall which is normally lime green in colour was transformed into a moving sea of black.  

Usually my first response to any life threatening  event is to grab my camera.  I remember when my daughter was three years old.  She was sitting on the kitchen counter dressed in her Hallowe’en outfit when she toppled off the counter and fell head first into a pail of water.  Did I immediately yank her out of the bucket?  Well, in this case I did; but before I did anything else I grabbed my camera.  

A couple of weeks ago when Michele was confronted by a  huge snake did I jump in front of her to protect her?  No.  I ran back for my camera.  But in this case I was so shocked by what I was witnessing I forgot all about my camera and grabbed for the can of RAID, which seemed like using a peashooter against an elephant.

As fast as I could spray them, more came in.  The floor was littered with dead and twitching ants.  After depleting an entire can of raid, Michele and I lacking gas masks,  retreated to the patio.  When we returned twenty minutes later the ants were in full retreat leaving piles of their dead comrades on the floor.  

Michele swept up dustpan full of the carcases while I went outside to see where the ants had gone.  To my dismay they hadn’t retreated back to the jungle.  Instead they were marching down the side of the house to the NEXT window.  Another full can of RAID beat back most of this attack.   The rest of the evening was spent fighting off subsequent invasions.  Luckily they gave up around midnight.  Good thing, though, since I was nearly out of RAID.  The rest of the subsequent evenings have been spent nervously scanning the walls to see if they’ve returned.  Several times a night I’d wake up grab my flashlight and do my own march around the house searching for “scouts.”  Any ant I came across  immediately got gassed. 

We couldn’t continue this way, so I asked some of the locals what they do when they encountered an ant invasion.  Many of them told me to do nothing.  They they told  me they take their pets and get out of the house.
“You can’t stop them,” said one. “You leave for three hours or so, and they’ll be gone.  They’ll take everything with them, though.  Any scrap of food, any bugs they find, even small electronic devices….   Of course the good news is that if they find any scorpions, they’ll take them as well.” 
Well it’s good to know there’s a silver lining to every cloud.

We weren’t keen on “the get out of the way” option.  What if they decided our place is great and they want to stay?  What if they decided they needed to come back for  the furniture and fridge?

The "strange" tienda 
I mentioned my problem to my friend Dave in Vancouver.  Dave told me when he stayed in Yelapa they had a similar invasion and the owner of the place put some special powder down and the ants  magically disappeared.  so  I asked the owner of the place they stayed where to get “the special powder.”  He told me it was only available at one place in Yelapa – a place with ominous name of “Gorgonias Tienda.”   A place named after a gorgon – the Greek Monster that had the head full of snakes?  I was beginning to feel I was in a Steven King novel.  What’s more interesting is that I’d been in Yelapa nearly ten years and never seen that store When I asked him where it was, here’s what he told me.
“It is down the hill from Trini's Juice Bar on your left just before Mimis.
It is just a window that you go up to, not an actual store”.

“My response was “Does the train to Hogwarts stop there?”  I wandered around the little paths behind Mimis and sure enough, there was a “window” I swear I’d never seen before.  It wasn’t big - maybe  four feet by three feet.  I looked inside and it was quite dark.  I could just make out a few cans of things in the gloom - but nothing that looked like ant powder.  Further I couldn’t see anyone minding the window.   I stared for a few moments until I heard someone say “Hola, Senior, Puedo Ayudarte?”  Startled, I turned around and there in the ally way beside the store was an old guy sitting on a chair.   Michele and I hadn’t noticed them when we arrived.  I told him I wanted something for the ants.  “Raid?” he asked.  I told him I wanted the “special powder.”  He looked at me for a moment then disappeared into a door way.  A few moments later he reappeared holding a silver pouch.  “Thirty pesos, senior.”  I gave him his thirty pieces of pesos and took the package.

When Michele and I returned to our casa the first order of business was to try and decipher the instructions on the package.  They were all in Spanish.  There didn’t seem to be too much information.  There was just a series of ominous warnings:
Secret Powder - Don't feed to Mogwai after midnight
1.       Don’t apply when it’s too hot out.
2.      Don’t apply when it’s too cold out.
3.      Don’t apply if it’s windy
4.      Don’t apply if it’s raining or looks like it’s going to rain.

From this I deduced that I could only apply this shit between the hours of 2am and 4am on odd days of the week in months that don’t have an “R” in them.

The warning continued:
 Don’t inhale the powder
5.      Don’t ingest the powder
6.      Don’t let the powder touch your skin
7.      Don’t let the powder get near your eyes
8.      Don’t use near pets
9.      Don’t use near children
10.  Don’t let the Mogwai eat the powder after midnight…(No, wait, that was from Gremlins)

Jeff in Yelapa biocontainment suit
Since I forgot to bring my biocontainment suit from home we had to concoct an  outfit and applicator for me to use so I wouldn’t gas myself applying it.  I worried if I did kill myself applying the powder the ants would carry me off into the jungle and Michele would have a problem claiming my insurance without a body.
“Why isn’t there any body?”
“He was eaten by ants.”
“Right, sure lady,” and where did this supposedly take place?”
“In Yelapa.”
“Okay, will you take a cheque?”


Using the same logic the French used during WW2 constructing the Maginot Line I only applied the powder to the two sides of the house the ants had attacked before.  (And how did that strategy work out for the French?)  Last night was the first night since I applied the magic powder.  So far so good…  not an ant in sight.  The other good thing is I haven’t heard or seen the neighbours dog.

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