Does science fascinate you? Do you pounce on the Tuesday New York Times science section? Or are you a flat earth type—what’s real must fit established beliefs and direct experience.
What I think is, we are all scientists. When we are faced with a problem, say, ants in the kitchen, it’s a scientific inquiry to ask what is the simplest way to get rid of them. An exterminator may be needed. But first, what’s at my local Fred Meyer? I had this problem last June. I remember the month because it turns out to be ideal for a self-inflicted ant invasion.
So, what’s on the store shelf? Many have come before me; I’ll see what’s selling. Well, how about poison compounds targeted to “exterminate grease-eating ants.” I don’t know if I have the right kind of ants. I’m smashing them left and right and beginning to catastrophize—what if they are the moisture ants that ate my neighbors’ house? I need to get hold of myself. Maybe I should just buy this product as worth a try. I can set it out today, so no delay. And it’s cheap.
And hey, even my doctor once prescribed me something that didn’t match my problem exactly. “Close enough” was what she said. Soon I’ll know whether it works and then I can panic, or call in the big guns.
It’s scientific, if crude. But what if there’s a hidden cost and I end up killing something beneficial? So I took some ants in a jar to the WSU Master Gardener on duty. There Al examined them and reassured me they were not structural pests but more like a cornfield ant that eats a number of things including sugars. He asked what they showed interest in. So I confessed I had cleaned up a hidden spill (Maybe the dishes didn’t get done. It could happen). A dried puddle of sweet strawberry juice. With added sugar.
But we’d been clean ever since, honest! And yet they kept coming. The problem was worsening, they were traveling farther in greater numbers, though they continued to come up from just one small gap in the window sill.
Ah, but here’s the thing. They follow a scent trail, Al told me. If one ant marks a trail as “fruitful,” others will follow despite disappointment and dead bodies. But disrupt the scent trail and they would stop coming. Science just got more fun.
A few drops of bleach on a bit of paper towel stuffed into the gap. It was miraculous. Ants no more. And recently a smart young Huxley student, Sarah, said cinnamon works, too. And nothing icky to use or dispose of.
So as I sit and eat the last of my Shuksan strawberry freezer jam on cream cheese, I am ready for a new season of the deep red beauties to go with my Tuesday NYT. I’ll eat till I get hives. But then I’ll wipe up the counter. I don’t need a side dish of ant angst.