June 23, 2009

The ants go marching one by one

Andrew went through a phase a couple of months ago where he was obsessed with the need for us to have an "alternative" pet. He loves Madeline with heart and soul - sorry, Madeline - but was feeling the itch for something more unusual. Apparently owning the most laid back, loving, overweight Australian Shepherd mutt that ever was just wasn't exotic enough for our young Jack Hanna.

Wisely, he initially tried this subject out on Mark. After several days of Mark declining to rush out and purchase a lorakeet, guinea pig or small turtle, he began working on me. I am normally a very poor target for this type of discussion but he came at me on Mother's Day and for some reason I was feeling just mushy enough that I was willing to entertain the topic, or at least willing to be entertained by the topic.

After some negotiations - which included me asserting that we will never knowingly harbor reptiles in this house - we narrowed it down to a goldfish or an ant farm. Mark was out-of-town and I was feeling a little sorry for myself on Mother's Day so I actually thought that getting a little fishbowl set-up sounded like a good afternoon activity. But, our little adventurer latched on to the Ant Farm concept.

The boys and I loaded up and headed downtown to the Toy Store where we selected Uncle Milton's Giant Ant Farm for the bargain basement price of something like $24.99. Everyone was delighted. Until we got home. That's when we figured out that we needed to send in a little voucher for the ants and, oh, it's going to take 4-6 weeks for them to arrive. Oh, and they needed an additional $4.99 for shipping. This was fun already!

Fast forward to yesterday when we journeyed to the mailbox and discovered that the much-anticipated ants had arrived. We were headed out to swimming lessons so we opened the padded envelope and put the small vial of ants on the counter next to the Ant Farm we had been staring at longingly all these weeks. I did notice as I opened it, that the envelope specifically said, right next to the cheery Uncle Milton's logo, that the contents should be kept away from extreme heat or cold. Conveniently, we were part of a National Weather Service-issued Excessive Heat Warning yesterday. At the time we retrieved the ants it was approximately 101 degrees. In the shade.

The evening progressed and the boys kind of forgot about the excitement of the ants. I kept peeking through the vial and noticed a possible lack of activity. Our new pets were definitely sluggish. Hmmm.

As I was leaving Andrew's room after the nightly routine, he remembered. He knew it was late and there was no chance we were going to collectively set-up the ant farm right then so he begged me to go do it myself and make sure the ants got enough water and food.

So, at 9:30 p.m. I began the process of assembling Uncle Milton's Giant Ant Farm. Sand, water, weird grains to feed them, etc. The directions suggested chilling the ants in the refrigerator for 15 minutes before attempting to put them in the farm because apparently Harvester Ants, which are approximately as big as my pinky finger, bite. Great. Icing them was supposed to slow them down temporarily so that they could be safely handled.

I removed them from the refrigerator, carefully opened the blue vial and then, quickly, dumped them into the top of their new homestead. You're all bright folks so I'm sure you've already guessed where this is headed.

You're right.

It seems that the all-expenses paid trip to Kansas in a padded envelope (aka sauna) was more than our Harvester Ants could handle. There is such a thing as too much spa time. They were dead. At first we thought that every last one of them had bitten the proverbial dust but it turns out that one lone ant survived. Sadly, it seems to be difficult for him to tunnel and do all the other fascinating things our new pets were supposed to do to entertain us when he's acting as a lone ranger. And, it seems relatively unlikely he'll procreate, seeing as how there's only one of him.

That's how it came to be that I was on the Uncle Milton's Ant Farm website bright and early this morning dialing up more alternative pets. This time they'll ship me two vials worth with some additional sand for a mere $14. Their website says the ants should survive nicely in temperatures up to 90 degrees so we're holding out hope.

Madeline has never looked better.

1 comment:

Rosemary said...

You have my vote for "mom of the year" hands down. I can just picture the careful preparation of the "ant city" and the ceremonial releasing into their lovely new home. At least one was gracious enough to survive. What's the life span of those little suckers? Will he/she live to see his/her new companions? Keep us posted. I'm hooked!