When The Ants Go Marching
By Abby Kuchar, 2019 Apprentice
Even before the start of my apprenticeship at the ranch, I would not have described myself as a particularly squeamish person. I like to think that I reacted to incidents involving large numbers of insects (infestations) with an appropriate amount of squeam. However, on more than one occasion, I was nudged outside of my comfort zone within the first few days of my time at the Ranch. Over the past few weeks, my relationship to these small jungle friends has changed once again.
My partner and I had just moved into our lovely abode, the Goat Barn. One evening when we returned home after dinner, we found at least 50 large army ants running around our floor! Quickly, we both started stomping away, desperate to kill every last one before climbing into bed, only to be kept awake by the feeling of phantom ants crawling between the sheets. The next morning, we exuberantly told the team the story of our ant adventures. A core team member, Ali, who has lived in Mastatal for the past six years, quipped “Only fifty? That’s weird.” Which, to say the least, was not the reaction I was expecting. “There’s usually A LOT more than that. The army ants will swarm a house for a few hours, clearing out the other insect larvae and bug parts. They’ll leave after an hour or so.” She explained.
A couple of days later, I noticed dark lines running along the outside walls of my house as I approached. Horrified, I realized the lines were actually dense highways of ants. Ribbons of industrious soldiers marched their way through the seams of the wall panels, into my home. I peeked my head into the room and saw an impressive and well organized network of army ants coming and going. Quickly I darted inside, grabbed my water bottle and book (the purpose of my trip) and gave the hard-working soldiers a quick salute. I will be back in five hours; I hope you all won’t be. I attempted to communicate, telepathically.
Sure enough, as we cautiously crept back into the house that evening, not a single ant could be found. In fact, the house felt eerily clean. Even the top of our mosquito netting, which had built up a graveyard of insects zapped by the overhanging light, was spotless. I hope they come back soon, our house could use a nice deep clean again.
Are you interested in experiencing Rancho Mastatal? Why not join us as a guest, maybe you will have the army ants clean your house too?!