Long live the Queen? NOT!
Every spring when I’d hear that old teakettle start to whistle I knew my grandmother wasn’t always boiling water for tea. My “Bubbe” (Jewish Grandmother) was an immigrant from Russia. She came to America in 1913, alone, when she was sixteen years old. She was proud of her Russian ancestry and maintained certain traditions her entire life. One of those traditions was wearing Russian shoes. These heavy, black leather lace-up shoes were part high heel, part work boot; purposeful foot attire and not real stylish shoes by any stretch, but her shoe of choice. In our family they became known as “Bubbe Shoes”.
Bubbe would boil water and take the teakettle out into the front yard by the walk and pour it on the ants that foolishly had ideas of invading our home. Bubbe was brutally determined to wipe them out even if it took all morning and several teakettles. I’d watch as the ants would float to their death in the boiling water, Bubbe’s face stern and unemotional. I do remember seeing the ants begin to scatter at the sound of Bubbe’s shoes making their way down the front stairs, an unmistakable cadence. When it came to killing ants, Bubbe meant business and the ants knew it. She was barely five feet tall, but her tenacity was unparalleled.
Many years later I have continued the tradition. No, I don’t wear “Bubbe Shoes”, but I do kill ants. I guess I despise them as much as Bubbe did; a trait she undoubtedly passed on to me. But I am a modern day, sophisticated ant killer, no teakettle for me! I use Raid Max Bug Barrier. I buy the gallon container that has a battery powered spray head on the end of black plastic tubing that extends out of the top. It works.
This spring I made my way around the foundation of our 40’ x 24’ split entry ranch and after spraying I didn’t see any ants for months until just recently. We have a two foot high stump in our front yard by the driveway that is smack in the middle of a flower bed. While re-cutting the bed and cleaning it I discovered thousands of ants of all different sizes. I got my Raid Max dispenser and immediately started to work. After I exterminated all the visible ants I began peeling off all the dead bark and rotted wood only to discover layers of ants and ant larvae. At that point it was obvious I needed the internet-
After a successful Google search, I knew I had a colony of Carpenter Ants residing in the moist, rotted confines of the stump, a favorite place for ants to set up shop. They don’t eat the wood, but meticulously excavate it into living quarters. Apparently they can travel over 100 yards. My house is only 30 yards away. They had to be stopped!
Wearing ankle-high Caterpillar brand work boots and cheap, brown cloth work gloves I picked up at Benny’s, I took the straight claw end of my Sears hammer and started peeling rotted wood. With the removal of each layer more ants and ant larvae spilled out of the rotted stump. I sprayed the ants and then peeled away more wood. At one point there was a large movement in some rotted wood that was covered by a thick layer of thin rooted material. It was too large a movement to be an ant?
I kept spraying the area and suddenly the head of some kind of pest began showing itself. At first I thought reptile, maybe a snake. I was cautious, but I kept spraying. Suddenly this creature started to panic and made its way out of the stump. I jumped back and took a good look. It was two and a half inches long and one and a half inches wide and resembled a Cockroach. Scary looking thing too! The Raid didn’t kill it, but had it on the ropes. I watched as it struggled to remain upright. I knew I had to kill it. I took the gallon container of Raid Max and positioned it over this creature. In one swift downward movement I heard a loud crunch. I lifted the blue plastic container off it and saw that it had split open like a Piñata, spewing ant larvae around it. This was no ordinary insect; this was the Queen Carpenter Ant, the ant solely responsible for reproduction and the continuation of the Colony, capable of producing 300,000 ants. She lay there still moving and in an act of pure humanity, I crushed her one more time and put her out of her misery. The Queen was dead! The Colony would not survive without her and according to the literature on the internet there is only one Queen per colony and I had killed her.
I grabbed my spade shovel and in one quick motion I got under her and had her centered. Holding the shovel end away from my body, I carried the corpse across the street to a wooded area and in what resembled a “one-timer”, with the flick of my wrist she disappeared deep into the woods.
As I put away my tools I knew I had done well to preserve the tradition started by my Bubbe. She would be proud. I can only hope that one day my cadence will be as recognizable as hers.
When my wife came home from work and asked “How was your day?” All I said was “Good”, knowing she would never understand…