European Escapades

Attack of the Killer Ants




Morning comes to the van as the sun rises over the treetops surrounding our campsite. The small trickle of light slowly increases until shafts of brilliant sun are warming our toes through the window and onto the light bed sheet we use as our cover against the odd mosquito that may stray into our domain. As the light streaming through the window starts to hit my still closed eyelids, my brain triggers in recognition and I am awakened to the morning sun as I am most mornings. Bleary eyed I perceive Missy who is always sitting by our feet looking out at the birds and other interesting movements that seem to occur at this time of day. An itch on my arm distracts me for a moment and I remember the odd feelings of Mosquitoes during the night, but they couldn’t be, as we normally hear the nasal drone as they pass above our heads. A little black spot, like a bit of fluff or dirt is in my hand and at first I don’t recognise it.

I realise it was an ant and I have just rolled it up in a small ball as I swept it from my arm. As my eyes adjust to the sunlight I spot another one, just above the window walking along the campervan wall at my feet. It’s interesting and I follow it progress from the window and along the wall, only for it to disappear behind the drawn bed curtains. But no its back again and walking back in the opposite direction. In my limited knowledge of ants and enjoying watching them yesterday afternoon outside, as we were sunning ourselves and enjoying a nice cool glass of wine, I know now that this is not the same ant but another coming in the opposite direction, following the scent trails that the ants use for navigation. Curious I open the curtain and find a lively little line of a few ants running back and forth from the window and into the cabin area. This I realise is not good and I wonder if they have managed to find a little morsel that has attracted their attention. Scanning the bed area I can see that the morsel is not around here, but I guess during the night a few have ventured out and it has been these forays I have mistaken for Mosquitoes. There are none in the bed area now thankfully so it must be in the living area somewhere. Waking Frances I mention the little invasion we may have suffered and then get out of bed to track down their ultimate destination. As I enter the kitchen area the number of ants steadily increases and I know that the few I saw were just a reconnaissance mission away from the main battle area. Along the bottom of the campervan door is the main troop movement and then up towards the kitchen wall units. I open the spice cupboard, but apart from the line of ants trudging back and forth along the bottom lip of the door, there is no sign of interest. It must I guess be in the bottle cabinet next door, but what is going to interest them in there I wonder. There’s glasses, tequila, olive oils and soy sauce, hardly a meal for your common ant and so nothing of real interest….

My face goes white as the fear of what they are after suddenly dawns on me and I open the cupboard only to be faced with my worst nightmare. They have found my breakfast cakes and have invaded the plastic container filled with my coconut dusted Madeira cake slices. Argghhhhh…….I lift the offending package and stare into a mass of black moving bodies and can see that a few have lost their lives wrestling with the tight seal around the edge of the plastic box, but they died valiantly and allowed other followers to gain access to the sweet sticky treasure that was their goal. The box is taken down from the shelf, the campervan door is thrown open and I put the package safely on the aluminium table outside. It now war and I intend to win the battle as I go to work with disinfectant, sponge and fingers for the stragglers and exterminate to the last ant the intruders that have breached our defences. Carpet up and thrown outside to allow me access to the channels they are using as navigation routes and I am finally getting somewhere. The first sweep of the area finished and I move back to the store cupboard to start the cleanup operation again. Ants are persistent buggers and unless you eliminate the pheromones trails they leave, they just keep coming back again and again. After the forth run through and we finally have the upper hand and have only the last of the stragglers to deal with and so it’s time to get the kettle on and sort out a nice cup of tea and the cake container. With the cake out of its package and thrown away the number of ants is dramatically reduced on the cake itself and I start picking off the offending ants that are persistently holding on to my breakfast.

Looking out of the van it seems we have finally found the access route for the ants. With the awning out and the lags pegged down on the ground the ants have climbed the legs onto the awning and walked along the fabric and down the side of the van, into our open bedroom window before heading for the wall cupboard and the cake. With this knowledge we have to take the awning down as Frances is now concerned that they may try to infiltrate again. After clearing the awning and putting it away we decide that the few days we have had on the southernmost tip of Portugal will now be at an end and we decide to head east to Lagos and a new campsite. There may have been more to this area than the surfing, but that seemed the predominant activity in the area and we are not surf dudes and so we say goodbye to our little nature park and our adversary’s the ants.

But before packing up the rest of the stuff, I have a nice cup of tea and a salvaged piece of coconut topped Madeira cake to finish, crunchy bits and all…

This entry was posted on Sunday, May 23rd, 2010 at 10:46 am and is filed under Travel Stories. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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