In the beginning, I considered them merely confused visitors peeking out from a crack in the wall, taking a few steps on the blond hardwood floor before their retreat. I saw no more than four or five at a time; I barely registered their movements. I had no idea that these were not tourists, but spies out on reconnaissance. In my walls, the ants were patiently biding their time in the dark, waiting for the moment when they could claim my room for their own. The following is compiled from entries in my journal from the Great Ant War of March to May 2012, as well as interviews with the combatants.
On March 4, 2012, the ants began colonizing the corner of my room opposite the edge of my bed. This was when the first victim of the war was taken. A Snapple cap from 2011, with a dried-up morsel of sugary goodness still remaining, was overwhelmed by the tiny black troops. It was forcibly carried into the recesses of the ants’ wall. It once read, “‘Real Fact 133’: Honeybees navigate by using the sun as a compass.” These words were never seen again.
By March 13, the ants had established a functioning base in the far corner of my room and were sending missions to the area around my refrigerator. On the opposite side of the room, patrols had stumbled upon my provisions, the leftovers of a gift basket I had received for my birthday. I surveyed the contents of the basket and threw out anything that had been opened. This was my first real victory. The provisions were salvaged. The ants were deprived of a source of food. An ant battalion was sent to its grave. I went to bed with a sense of satisfaction, only to discover ant spies living between my sheets.
After a month of warfare, I started to lose hope. Two large tracts of floor had been forfeited to the ants. Despite my constant vigilance, I could not lay down in my bed without feeling the tiny tingling sensation of an ant crawling across my skin. It was time to turn to more strategic tactics. On March 27, I made a trip to the CVS and purchased one set of four “Ant Control Systems Child Resistant Bait Trays.” I set two up in each of the ants’ military bases and watched. At first, the ants were suspicious of the bait trays, but then the glorious smell of the bait wafted toward them and they could not resist. Many could not figure out how to make it inside the tray to get to the poisoned bait, but every once in a while a more persistent colonist would make his way inside and return slightly tottering with the bait. He disappeared into the wall. By the end of the week, the ant populations on both of the bases had been significantly diminished. Tracts of wooden floor were returning to my control.
April 24, was a tragic day. Almost a month had passed since the bait systems had laid waste to the ant colonies, poisoning soldiers and families alike and restoring my sovereignty over my dorm room. The military bases had begun to recover with full-fledged ant-towns beginning to re-form. This time, though, they were angry. What had begun as a war based in fair play and proper ethics spiraled into a game of dirty tactics fueled solely by revenge.
That Tuesday, I arrived at my 10 a.m. British constitutional history class with my large gray book bag in hand. I set it down on the floor and began to take notes. I noticed an ant on my arm. I killed it. I noticed an ant on the floor. I killed it. I noticed the torrent of ants flooding from my bag. I sat in shock. My black boots could only destroy so many. The rest wreaked havoc on the classroom, spreading the war to whomever was unlucky enough to be in class with me that day. With morale low, I returned back to my room where my bag had to be sacrificed to ensure the destruction of these militant ants.
Throughout May the ants continued their rampage. The most effective of these acts of terrorism was their infiltration of a cereal box of “Koshi Heart to Heart Cereal: Honey Toasted Oat” that a compatriot mistakenly left out for an hour without adhering to the standard sealing protocol. He took a handful of the cereal and was immediately overwhelmed by a battalion. He barely lived to tell the tale.
On May 25, I decided I’d had enough and got my hands on a bottle of “OFF! with DEET.” I overwhelmed every ant with a deluge of poison. After the flood, they would get up and try to crawl around. Then, their limbs would start shaking. They would move slower and slower and then collapse, never to rise again. My room was covered with ant corpses, but the war had been won.
I see now that I had been living in an isolated bastion of privilege. I had not known what it would be like to persevere through the worst conditions, to live every day knowing it would likely be my last. But now I know. I know what war is. I’ve spent nights living in fear of when and where the enemy would strike next, praying that I had not left anything open to attack. I’ve lost loved items at the hands of terrorists. I know that sometimes defensive measures do not work. That sometimes even large-scale infiltrations of an enemy food source do not work. That sometimes you just have to poison them all to death. The Great Ant War of 2012 allowed me to gain this knowledge. And despite the horror and the lives lost, I could not have asked for a more valuable gift.
Original URL: http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2012/10/11/31437/