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February 24, 2022 Thursday 08:18:11 PM IST

The Biting Army

Guest Column

One day I saw a long line of ants going in a diagonal line across the wall while I was at my table busy typing something on my computer. I called my daughter Diyah to show how the ant army is disciplined and hunt for food collectively. She asked how do they know food is there on the bottom of the wall? I told her about how one ant leaves a chemical trail for others to follow. It is called pheromones, remembering something I read from National Geographic long back. 

After my work was over, my daughter wanted to play some games on the system. Within 5 minutes she screamed, 'Dad are you blind? Those ants are climbing up through the network wires and cables right into your laptop.' I couldn't believe how such a supposedly harmless creature could do something atrocious. 

Under Siege

I started typing on the system and when I typed 's' some junk character appeared on screen while I pressed the space bar the entire screen started scrolling. Indeed, the tiny creatures had taken partial control of my system menacingly like viruses. I tapped on the body of the computer and soon biting ants were coming out. I sprinkled talcum powder all the place and the offensive smell drove them out partially but their conquest was total. My system was under siege!
The next morning, I took the laptop to a neighbourhood technician who said the soft pad kept to take the impact of the key depressions were all eaten up! The technician asked, 'Sir do you eat snacks while doing your work?' I said 'sometimes'. "Your keyboards does have some small pieces of nuts and some sweet scrapings which the ants have taken inside." But these creatures didn't want to just use it as a food storage space, they were eating into my keyboards also, right?

Anyway, whether I did wrong or not, I ended up paying a few thousand to get the keyboard replaced.

The ant armies are worse than Putin's Russian force. I have seen them attack the insulation coverings of the iron box  even when the 1000 W device is connected to the plug socket for ironing, I saw them  come out easily unscathed. They sometimes chew on the bed coverings and all places you are unlikely to imagine their presence.  

Bite in the Mouth
Most likely places of ant attack are the vessels containing food especially 'puttu'(a favourite of Malayalees made from steamed rice powder). Hungry on returning from office, I started  on the left over 'puttu' from morning and very soon I felt something biting inside my mouth and spit out the whole food. Indeed, parts of my mouth got swollen by the ant bite. I remember my mother used to put food in containers and keep it in a vessel with over an inch of water to keep these tiny creatures at bay. Sometimes, they try to valiantly reach for the food only to end up drowned in water!

Text books never tell stories of the damage these tiny creatures can create around us. Atleast, in one story they are depicted as a thankful creature. You might have read the story of the ant that saved a bird from a hunter in return for helping it swim safely on a leaf without getting drowned on a previous occasion. Scientists have studied the movement of ants to improve logistics systems.  Back home I found to my dismay they even evade DDT or any other chemical defense.  Isn't there a UN or NATO to keep them in check? Whatever be, after my painful experiences with these tiny fellows all these years, the mere sight of them moving down the walls or floor makes me jittery!

Sreekumar Raghavan

Sreekumar Raghavan is an award-winning business journalist with over two and a half decades of experience in print, magazine and online journalism. A Google-certified Digital Marketing Professional, he specialises in content development for web, digital marketing and training, media relations and related areas. He is the recipient of MP Narayana Pillai Award for Journalism in 2001 and holds a bachelors degree in Economics and Masters Degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Kerala University.





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