Our House, Our Ants

We’ve spent this past month in a villa with three bedrooms on one side and an open-air, screened-in kitchen/dining/living area on other, all surrounding a pool.  We don’t really have any immediate neighbors other than the trees and birds, which is great for critter-spotting and not needing to worry about Theo’s noise level.

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It’s lovely here. However, it’s also been challenging in new and different ways.

The heat and humidity are intense at times. Theo had the quickest adaptation time: shortly after arriving, Joanna cut off his hair and he hardly ever wears clothes around the house. Normally, I feel like mid-to-upper 70s is just a little too warm for me, so I’ve been surprised by just how much I’ve adjusted to the 90+ degree heat. However, after finding our passports covered in a fine mist of mold yesterday, I don’t think I can say the same about adjusting to the humidity. (The passports seem fine now – it was mostly the covers. Our lesson learned is that we will now keep all our important documents in plastic ziplock bags in humid climates.)

Staying connected to the Internet has been a challenge, both at the house and the nearby village, where the connection often just goes away. We’ve been using our phones to (slowly) tether and frequently commute into a nearby town with (more) reliable Internet access. (Brian has had two multi-hour screen-sharing calls at in-town Internet cafe where the connection reliably goes out every ten minutes. Yikes.)

Finally, the ants. They seem to very much want to live with us in the house, and we very much wish they would stay outside. Cooking and storing food has been a constant battle (almost everything is in the refrigerator or freezer now), and we have to be very careful to not leave crumbs anywhere to encourage a fresh invasion.

I believe we’ve encountered four different kinds of ants. I apologize in advance for the following unscientific classifications, but for types 1 – 3, I certainly don’t want to encourage them by researching further (given their propensity for our computers, it seems safest to assume they read this blog):

Type 1

Normal, small-ish ants. These like to swarm our food and sometimes take up residence in our computers, but otherwise are not really a big deal.


Type 2

Large, sometimes winged ants that are pretty alarming looking, though they seem to be harmless. I set up “sure kill” sticky traps in the kitchen, and they enjoyed deftly walking in and out of them, as if to taunt me. I don’t have a picture of these ants, because I was afraid that if I took out my phone they would confiscate it.

Type 3

Tiny, evil, acid-spewing ants that are the most unpleasant, by far. They like our food, they like our computers, they gnawing on our flesh. For our first week here, these acid-spewing ants were bitting me at night, but that mostly ended after I stopped using almond oil as a moisturizer on my face and arms. (Thank goodness.)


Type 4

Leafcutter ants! As might be intuited by the exclamation mark, I actually love these ants, which occasionally hang out in the courtyard bathroom but otherwise keep to themselves.  I love watching lines of them carrying leaves back to their nests where they use it to grow fungus. If, like me, you’re fascinated by this, you can read more about it in the book Monkeys are Made of Chocolate. (I acknowledge that, were I a leaf, I would probably feel differently about them.)