Costa Rica

Held Captive By Army Ants!

Soldier

Soldier. My, what long legs you have!

When the army ants come, get out! That’s the word on the street. I heard it when we first came to Costa Rica in 1989, and I still hear it today.

Last Tuesday I came home from Dance-Fit class at Su Espacio, and Don was in the carport working on the car. His greeting: “You just missed the army ants!”

“They came and went? So fast? I’ve only been gone for an hour. How big?”

“Solid!

“Huh? No, how big was the column?”

“Solid!”

“Yeah, but how wide? Two inches? Six? How wide?”

“Solid!!”

“Ayyyyy! O.K. honey, what happened? Did they march through the house?”

“Well, yeah. They just seemed to come out of nowhere, and the next thing I knew, the floor was solid black. The whole mass moved like a unit, up and over the door, across the floor and out the back door. There are a few stragglers on the back patio. I’ve never seen anything like it! They cleaned the floor pretty well though; no bugs.”

The stragglers on the back patio were running back and forth in a two inch column. That’s when I remembered: solid! In 1992, my kids and I were visiting Nonnie in Nosara., and we rented the house next door. Our first night there, my daughter, then nine years old, starting screaming from her room, shouting: “Get them off me! Get them off me!”   Thinking she was having a nightmare, I rushed in, flipped on the light and the entire floor was black. Yep. Solid with ants. They weren’t just large black ants, though. As I took a closer look, there were smaller red ants in the mix, and they appeared to be fighting. This was not our war! I grabbed Chelsea, threw her in the shower and got the ants off her. I was thankful she didn’t have too many bites, all things considered. We were huddled in the shower together, planning our escape. My son, Tyler, (11), was already outside with a friend of mine, Phil, who was shouting: “Run! Get over here and I’ll hose you off. Let’s get outta here!”

So, we ran in the night to Nonnie’s house and hung out until morning. We went back after breakfast and all the ants were gone. I didn’t see any leftover casualties either. The army ants haul everything off to the bivouac. Yes, they ‘bivouac’, not nest. They make temporary dwellings out of their own bodies. I learned that recently from reading about army ants: http://www.costaricajourneys.com/army-ant/ I found out about the different sizes: drones (small, no mandibles), soldiers (large body, gigantic head, big hooked mandibles), and the enormous queen. They are mostly blind, communicating by pheromones. The good news is they don’t attack humans, although they will bite if threatened. Chelsea and I can attest to that!

So, if you step around the column, you can use your macro lens and take pictures of them. They run pretty fast, though, so you have to hold still and keep snapping, hoping for a lucky shot.

ArmyAnts4

Herding the dead!

ArmyAnts6

Thursday I came home from Dance-Fit, grabbed my laptop, and headed for my writing perch on the back patio. I wriggled onto my high bar-stool, logged on, and prepared to blog.  I felt a sting on my ankle, looked down, and there was a lone soldier biting me while his buddies swarmed the deck. “Hey, wait a minute. You guys were here on Tuesday. You’re at the wrong house! Enough already. Everybody else left. What’s wrong with you? Go. Go find your platoon.”

I snatched up my stuff, herded the dog back into the house, and started scratching like crazy where Mr. Army Ant bit me.

I sprayed Baygon on the threshold, closed the door, and went about my business inside. Every fifteen minutes or so, I peeked out the window to see if the coast was clear. I much prefer to work outside. I could have gotten away with sitting at the high table; my feet don’t reach the ground, but I knew Toby, the dog, would lay on the ground  beside me and possibly be carried off to the bivouac.  I didn’t want his curious snout to get bitten either, so we stayed in – waiting.

The column neither grew nor dwindled. Whatever the mission was, it lasted all day and into the night. This morning the coast was clear. The patio was clean, and I sent a memo: no army ants until next year! I don’t want to be trapped inside by insects for a while. Twice in one week is plenty.

Be on the look-out. If you see them coming, head for the hills. No, not the hills, they like hills. Head for Happy Hour. It’s 5:00 somewhere!

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10 thoughts on “Held Captive By Army Ants!

  1. Carole,

    You are priceless! I remember as a five year old my family, because of my father’s transfer, went to east Africa. Mombassa was our first port of call and we lived for a few nights at the Blue Post Hotel in ‘rondavels’ (mud huts) on the beach until we travelled to Nairobi. Boy, the crabs would drive you crazy. Every single night they would come out in droves, scratch the side of the dwelling, almost sounded like music sometimes but then you remembered what was creating this sound and it was not pleasant. The last time I was a part of this ‘evening eruption’ was in 1985 in Tahiti, with TIA. Wherever one went at night, there they were. Crunching down the road, being run over by mopeds, WE were walking, going to Bloody Mary’s in most cases for great seafood. I have photos of us creeping between, or crunching them, however in my forties I could appreciate that they had a life too and they were not out to get ME.

    Maybe your blogs will be a movie one day – you never know – they certainly are entertaining and truthful.

    Anne

    Date: Thu, 12 Dec 2013 09:13:54 +0000 To: annepryan@hotmail.com

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  2. Carole Jean,

    Interesting and entertaining article about army ants.

    I am attaching two “resumes” of mine written at various times for various purposes and for hopefully for your entertainment. (also a little of my woodwork)

    Now – who (and what) are you? Obviously you are married with two (?) kids and living in Costa Rica. Why Costa Rica? Is that a permanent thing? Aside from the ants, what’s the attraction?

    Paul Burri, RSA Read me on Noozhawk.com Follow me on Twitter “My doctor told me that I suffer from kleptomania and there’s nothing I can take for it.”

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    • Paul, thanks for checking me out. Couldn’t get your resumes to load. Darn! Me? Just a Baby Boomer who went bust in California, met a new guy in the same boat, started over in Costa Rica. My parents live here so it makes some kind of family sense. My kids have been visiting since they were little, so visits are easily maneuvered. Permanent? Well, yeah … for now. When grand-kids come? Hmmmm … we shall see.
      Went to Noozhawk – Santa Barbara? Love the name. I’ll try again on your resumes. Meanwhile, thanks for reading!

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  3. I remember having to live among the mega size roaches in our house in Hawaii. I could handle the geckos…but the roaches skittering all over all the time – so nasty! And yes ants…woke up as a child covered in them. I can still hear my mom freaking out!

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