Fly... For An Old Guy
Geezer and the Fire Ants
by Roger Richards
Apparently fire ants are drag racing fans. During the course of the year I get to travel to most of the tracks in the southeast and there seems to be an abundance of the little pesky insects. Being race fans, the ants naturally try to get as close to the action as possible. Getting as close to the cars as possible as they speed down the track means that you must be right at the retaining wall. Violating all of the accepted rules of safety, the ants actually build their mounds leaning against the retaining wall. Given enough time, I am sure the mound would extend to the top of the retaining wall where small dirt stands would, without a doubt, be erected allowing them to see the action.
The temperature beside the track can become quite elevated during most of the events during the season, so most of the photographers that prowl along the retaining wall choose to wear short pants. Photographers wearing shorts while trampling over the mounds during the course of the race leads to some rather agile displays of folk dancing while still trying to focus on the passing cars and swat the ants. Invariably, at the place that we choose to kneel to get the better angle for the shot, there is a fire ant mound or the ants are hiding just waiting to make a quick feast of our knees and legs.
Tracy Waters, a friend and fellow photographer, has made it a policy to bring huge bags of fire ant-killing pesticide to the tracks at Atlanta and Gainesville where the population seems to go unchecked. Spreading the pellets prior to the event has offered some measure of relief. I am not sure how the bites affect most people, but there have been times that I am unable to remove my shoes at the end of the day due to the swelling. I have grown to hate the little !@#$#@#$%%%$.
Imagine my great sense of dread when mounds of fire ants began to appear in my lawn. My area of the south hasn’t traditionally been a place for them. I make the assumption that they must have hitched a ride on my van from Florida or Georgia because one of the first mounds appeared near the area where the van is parked. The battle of the fire ant had now shifted from trackside to outside my door. The first skirmish was easy. The mound was in an area that I wasn’t trying keep grass growing so a quick splash of gasoline eliminated that colony.
My lawn used to be something that I maintained well and was proud of. After getting so involved in drag racing and spending so much time on the road, I now just try to keep the grass and weeds from hiding the house. During this year in which I paid very little attention to my lawn, the fire ants apparently called all of their relatives and informed them of a great place to spend the summer. During a week off, I managed to get the grass and weeds to a manageable level and I decided that I would attack the 80-plus mounds that now dotted the acre and a half of lawn. After a trip to the Home Depot to get the latest chemicals to begin the war, I launched the first assault. I decided on a two-pronged campaign to begin with. I covered half the mounds with a powder and the other half with a granulated poison. The directions indicated that for the full effect, I needed to wait a couple of days. With that information, I packed up my cameras and headed to the next event with the knowledge that I would have wrestled control of my yard from the little beasties.
WRONG! Upon my return in four days, I found that indeed all the mounds were inactive. However, beside each of the inactive mounds, I found three new and improved mounds. And upon further inspection, I observed something that isn’t covered in the information supplied by the chemical companies. Near the new mounds beside the old mounds that were covered with the snow like powder, I saw a trail of ants with eight pair of little skis trudging up the side of the hill and gleefully swooshing down to their waiting friends who had set up a nice little café where they were munching on the granules from the other type of poison that I had used. I was even able to discern a song that they were signing: "Manna from Heaven."
Infuriated, I resorted to something that I knew would be effective. I set fire to the little buggers. Pouring an ample supply of 87 octane down each new hill, I roasted the devils. Alas, the following day…..beside inactive mounds and newly blackened spots all over my yard, new mounds began to appear. I have one more thing that I will try after I return from the IHRA event in Rockingham. If anyone is missing a drum of nitromethane from their supply, come to Greer and watch me see the varmints inhale 55 gallons of Top Fuel.
© Competitionplus 2004