Saturday, December 22, 2007


You might ask what do ants have to do with Dumaguete. Well coming from a temperate climate where insects know their place and species are limited in numbers, I had no idea there were so many kinds of ants in the world. Just in the Philippines I lost count at 300 species and sub species.
When I moved in to my first Dumaguete rental house, I learned very quickly about several species of insects. Number one was Mosquitoes. Now these are potentially dangerous carriers of diseases such as malaria and Dengue fever. However, they can be easily prevented from entering the house with screens and judicious use of sprays or mosquito coils. The latter are pressed spirals of insecticide that you light and let burn like incense.

If you are bothered by ants, don’t come to the Philippines. They are everywhere. Sure you can spray insecticide daily or weekly, but you will spend a lot of money, and after a while you think that you are poisoning yourself instead of the ants. Not to say they can’t be controlled, but they are persistent little buggers.
You would think that because this is a tropical climate that the insects here would be larger than there northern counterparts, not so with many of the ant species here. Most ants you will see in the house are small. One species, (featured in my photo) are a mere 2-3 millimeters long.

My pets drinking milk for breakfast
There is one kind of slightly larger black ant that runs on steroids apparently. These guys can move fast. I would guess about 200 miles per hour if you would scale their size to the size of a car. Unlike Philippine human pedestrians, the ants here are orderly and travel in neat lines single file. Sometimes you will wake up in the morning to an armored invasion. The line will start at some crack in the first line of defense such as a screen pulled away from the wall. It’s really quite interesting how they disguise themselves. They might travel along a window ledge, down a door jamb to the floor. Once on a tile floor, they neatly follow the grout lines, almost impossible to see. Inconspicuously climbing a table leg, they will terminate their invasion line on that plate of snacks you left on the table the night before. How do they know? Beats me, but these guys will surely inherit the earth.
My wife has instilled in me tolerance for our ant friends. She separates them into good and bad ant categories. A country girl, she takes delight in inserting one small species into her ear and letting it crawl up and down her ear canal. I was at first really grossed out by this, but she explained that they always crawl back out. All I could think of was the science fiction story about Earwigs that bored into your brain and took over your body. I can’t say I enjoy the sensation, but I have actually let her put one in my ear. Unless you try it you’ll never know... It’s like popcorn exploding in your ear, and it tickles like crazy. The problem is its like taking a drug, once it’s in there it will run its course (ha). You can’t get it out until it decides there’s neither anything to eat nor a good looking young lady ant in there.
One species of “bad” ant I seem to find without trying. These red devils hide in the grass waiting for an unsuspecting sandal adorned foot to come there way. They have this knack of biting you between the toes. The first sensation is a burning pain which then transitions into a painful unrelenting itch. It is similar to a wasp sting but not as severe.

I have made my peace with my ant friends here in Dumaguete, we tolerate each other’s existence, and besides they really don’t eat much. Just check that glass of coke before you take a swig!


Anonymous said...

I like that ants shot ;-)

RHB said...

Thanks, it's my ant version of a flea circus.

Jay said...

I wouldn't mind them so much if they didn't bite me. They seem to prefer exotic foreign food. :)

The only way to really keep them under control is to keep your kitchen spotlessly clean and your food stored well. God knows how they find stuff so fast, but if you leave anything out there'll be a busy ant highway leading to it within an hour or so.