As soon as it started getting warm six or so weeks ago we started seeing our old friends, the ants. I don’t know why they don’t come around in the winter, maybe they hibernate or something. But as soon as it gets warm, they’re back.

We live on the fourth floor of a former light manufacturing building on Broadway in Williamsburg. Actually we live in the last triangle of Williamsburg, because at the corner where Broadway meets Flushing Avenue, three neighborhoods meet.

South of Broadway but East of Flushing is Bedford-Stuyvesant, the neighborhood I grew up in. North of Broadway and East of Flushing is Bushwick. And we, of course, on the Western side of Flushing and still on Broadway are in Williamsburg proper.

There are no trees around here, as a matter of fact no green of any kind at all, no dirt, grass, or unpaved areas, which is what I associate ants with, I’ve only seen ant hills in earth or sand, and there is none of that here.


The first couple of years here were fine, no ants. This will be our eighth summer here. Then they started coming.

We had a few mice in the beginning, courtesy of our downstairs neighbors, who owned the deli grocery next door and let their four kids eat whatever they wanted from there. I never saw any of these kids without a brightly colored drink or candy or bag of something crunchy in their hands. There was a trail of dropped food and spilled sticky liquid from the front door to their door right below us on the third floor.

Our cats, first the old Banana cat that died three years ago and then Kiwi, the one we have now kept the apartment mouse free. There were some roaches, but we took care of that.

Then came the ants. I don’t know if it took them three years to climb up the four flights of stairs or what, but for the past five summers they’ve been around, in varying degrees.

I fist noticed them on the bathroom floor, and wondered why in the bathroom? There’s nothing to eat there.

Their favorite place is near the cat’s food bowl. Since the cat is not a very neat eater, she sometimes spills bits of wet cat food on the floor, and the ants like this.

I try and keep it clean, but all it takes is one little bit that you miss and the next day there’s a swarm of ants crawling all over. I started to feel like Leiningen in Leiningen Versus The Ants, one of my all-time short stories. I bought some Raid Ant and Roach killer at the local Food Bazaar, but if it’s one thing I’ve learned in the past summers is that this only works on contact. But every time I think of getting something better it’s fall already and the ants disappear.

This spring it got worse. They were everywhere, and I started to feel like James Arness in THEM! I was ready for the flamethrowers.

In the army we had a roach problem in the barracks, and our favorite way to kill roaches was to get some kind of aerosol spray and flick a cigarette lighter into the spray, making a mini-flamethrower. That no one blew up his hand is remarkable. I don’t recommend it.

So this was out.


The other morning the cat was being a real pain in the ass, mewling and running over to her food bowl. I figured the cat was hungry, and when I went over to get the food dish, which still had food in it, I was shocked. There were hundreds of ants all over it, with a trail of them leading to a crack in one of the floorboards.

The car was upset the ants were eating her food.


“Why don’t you eat the ants?” I asked. After all, they are a good source of protein. The cat just looked at me, and despite the lovely Danusia’s declaration that Kiwi understands English I don’t think so.

I washed the cat’s dish, sprayed the Raid, fed the cat, and resolved to find a better way.

I saw a commercial on TV for ORTHO indoor ant killer, and I knew this was the stuff to try. It’s supposed to kill them in their nest.

I went to Home Depot, and after mulling over getting the big dispenser for $15 I opted for the small spray bottle:


And for insurance I got this:


All professional bug men I’ve known swear by the gel. So I found ant gel as well, and got some of that for insurance.

The gel is much harder to work with, I had to get down on the floor to spread it in all the cracks in the bathroom where the wall meets the floor and the contractors did a shitty job of sealing. I put some in the gaps where the tile meets the wood in the kitchen, a favorite of the ants.

I put it all along the kitchen counter edges.

This morning I got up and for the first time in seven weeks I was not greeted with the sight of stray ants wandering aimlessly in circles on the cold tile bathroom floor. Ditto the kitty’s food dish, no swarm there. Success, at least for now.

I’ve still got some gel left; I used only half of it until I got tired of crawling around on the floor.

I’ve also got the ORTHO spray, just in case, because in this city, you never know.

About xaviertrevino

I like to write, take things apart and put them back together. Also our cat Snookie, turtles, and my lovely wife Danusia.
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3 Responses to THEM!

  1. I have the same problem and every time my dad visits he retells HIS favorite short story “Lenninger and the Ants.” The mesage: You’ll never win the battle with the ants. Here’s a tip (in case they come back). I put the cat’s food dishes inside a larger dish filled with water. The ants have not yet sacrificed themselves to create a bridge of ant corpses, so the cat food is safe. I’m thinking of patenting…

  2. janetgzinn says:

    It’s amazing that something so small can impact a home like that.

  3. I’m for the flamethrower option.

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