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Mike RobinsonWhen you spend a few years living up the coast in a forest, you learn about the seasons. And I don’t just mean the obvious: winter, spring, summer and fall.

There are literally hundreds of others seasons: pink salmon season, humpback whale season, rufous hummingbird season, rhododendron season, Steller sea lion rutting season, black bear hibernating season, and Himalayan blackberry and salmon berry seasons.

Much of what is seasonally observed relates to big, beautiful or tasty visitors passing through your territory or blooming in your garden.

And then there are the pest seasons. Right now, we’re bedevilled by the annual moment of the household ants. They move quietly inside your house to live joyously, riotously in May. This year is no different. It’s high ant season.

Strangely, we forget about ants after they disappear in the heat of summer. Somehow their season of abundance comes and passes, and doesn’t register like the departure of say, the Skelhp cougar. But when they arrive, you know it.

I casually opened a box of figs on May 2 and ate a few before depositing the unsealed box back on an upper kitchen shelf. The next morning, I reached up for the box and it was crawling with hundreds of small black ants.

“The bloody ants are back!” I yelled to my wife, who was four rooms away having a shower

“Oh no!” came back a muffled reply.

I looked quickly about and saw their point of entry – a long line of purposeful ants were walking vertically down from the kitchen ceiling. Quickly I sprang into battle, pulling all of the jam, peanut butter and coffee jars from the closest shelf. I then moved all of the spices, cereals and condiments from their shelves.

Each newly-exposed flat surface had several little ants trudging from jar to package to shaker. A quick glance also revealed more on the white kitchen countertop. There they were easy to see.

Our tried-and-true ant eradication tools are Lysol spray and Ortho Home Defense MAX ant traps. The little red, punctured circular tins of god knows what (the detailed, extremely tiny print on the label is more suited to ant eyes) are quickly deployed every few metres and we stand back to watch. Soon the ants are attracted by the “allergen peanut butter,” and carry the poisoned food back to their nest, where, the label assures us, “The entire colony is usually destroyed.”

Ants are alone as the species I wish this form of destruction upon. I realize that in some circles this may be politically incorrect. For me, the concept of ant-ridden food, ants in bed and ants all over the bathroom just doesn’t cut it. And so each year I adhere to my anti-ant beliefs.

Strangely, just when you think you’re victorious and they’ve all gone where the goblins go, they often reappear. On the dining room table, the other side of the kitchen or mysteriously in the cutlery drawer.

It’s now nearly week two of ant season and things are quieting down. Our morning ritual has been slightly modified. Whoever gets up first customarily gets the coffee and tea going. In the pre- and post-ant seasons, this activity is conducted in human silence and noise only rises slowly from the boiling water in the kettle. During ant season, however, there’s a customary first visual search and an accompanying war cry: “Three!”

We know what this means. “Two!” or “One!” would be better. More is unthinkable in week two. If it occurs, it’s time for a quick visit to the Ant and Wasp Aisle in Canadian Tire, where boxes of Home Defense MAX are permanently displayed. To be honest, every time I go now I’m tempted to restock.

Recently my anthropologist daughter complimented me on the growing level of my indigenous environmental knowledge about where I live. If you live observantly and continuously in one place, you’re bound to absorb the once closely-held secrets of the place.

I’m still surprised by friends who visit and say something like, “There’s a crow,” when I now know it’s the female member of the nesting pair of ravens I talk to when I cut firewood in the meadow.

Imagine how I feel when I hear, “There’s an ant!”

Mike Robinson has been CEO of three Canadian NGOs: the Arctic Institute of North America, the Glenbow Museum and the Bill Reid Gallery. Mike has chaired the national boards of Friends of the Earth, the David Suzuki Foundation, and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. In 2004, he became a Member of the Order of Canada.

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ants are back

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