I witter a lot, so my daughter tells me.  Well, I like wittering.  But, to give my family a break I shall witter here and, hopefully, less at home.  So, welcome to my wittering world.  Today’s witter is...

The Ants Are My Sternest Critics

The ants are my sternest critics. My family are happy with my housekeeping skills – or, if they’re not, they know better than to complain. I’m fairly satisfied with my efforts. But the ants are not.

‘Not good enough,’ is their constant cry, like an exacting great aunt running a white gloved finger over my picture frames. Should I decide to defer the vacuuming, despite the mountain of crumbs under the table – Not Good Enough, they holler, miraculously converging on the feast from nowhere.

They think I’m lazy and don’t hesitate to tell me so. If I leave the jam jar on the kitchen bench for 5 minutes before putting it in the fridge – ‘Lazy, lazy, lazy,’ cries the ant circling the jar’s lid. If I let the dishes pile up on the draining board before washing them it’s picnic time for the whole colony. ‘Hey, look what lazy left out for us! Mmm, this one had honey in it. Avocado! I just love avocado. Strawberry yoghurt, my favourite. Ugh, steer clear of this one, there’s a centimetre of oil in the bottom.’ And then, like contrary children deliberately ignoring well-meant ‘don’ts’, a whole mob dives into the oil and commits suicide. If I remonstrate with them their answer is clear, ‘Hey, you gotta wash ‘em as soon as you finish with ‘em otherwise they’re ours. The rules are clear.’

The little slave drivers are tireless, nagging at me ceaselessly. ‘When did you last empty the toaster’s crumb tray?’ they frown. ‘How long since you dusted this windowsill?’ demands the demolition team on its way to dismantle the dead 

fly that’s been there for half an hour. OK, I didn’t even know the fly was there ‘til I saw the steadily moving ant stream. So, yeah, they keep me on my toes.

‘Oh, come on,’ I say, ‘I’ve given the kitchen bench a thorough wipe down.’ ‘Oh yeah,’ they sneer, ‘well why don’t you just look under that fruit bowl little miss sloppy?’ so I do and sure enough I find fugitive crumbs and a dead bug. So now I have to take everything off the kitchen bench and wipe it down really thoroughly, while they watch me with hands on hips, making sure I don’t miss anything.

Still, these ants are Tasmanian and pretty easy going as Australian ants go. They’re sociable and like company. Not like the jumping ants where we lived in northern NSW. Go anywhere near them and ‘Clear off!’ they shout as they leap onto you, biting and holding on grimly like microscopic pit bulls

But for sheer attitude the ants in Hughenden, Queensland win hands down. Queenslanders have a reputation for being laid back, not so the ants. While ramping the temperature up slows us down to a crawl it sends the ants into hyperdrive. These are the boot camp trainers of the ant world. Jogging, cycling, scooting or skating along the riverside paths is fine, even brisk walking. But slow down or stop and suddenly tiny biting ants swarm all over your feet, forcing you into the ‘get these ants the heck off me’ dance while larger biting ants launch themselves onto you from the bushes, adding the brushing yourself down move to your dance routine. Rapid movement is the only way to avoid the little blighters, not easy when it’s 42 degrees out. In the house their speed and vigilance is astonishing. One icy pole drip on the kitchen floor and it’s suddenly black with ants. A casual mention of the ant problem to the real estate agent elicited only a world weary ‘Welcome to Hughenden.’


So perhaps I should be more appreciative of our Tasmanian ants. After all, they’re only doing their job and making sure I do mine, darn them.