VIDEO: Ants!

Posted In: Beach, California, Destinations, RV Lifestyle, Video

Having traveled some 40,000 miles around the continental United States, I can draw a few conclusions about regional insect behavior.

Overall, our Airstream cabin has remained blessedly free of multiple legged creatures. Sure, the occasional bloodthirsty mosquito manages to invade our inner sanctum. But mosquitoes are easy to spot against the white lining and wallpaper of our Airstream. A few quick swats and they are history (albeit a history that’s sometimes violently recorded on our walls in smashed mosquito bits — thank goodness for Clorox Wipes).

While conventional thinking holds that mosquitoes frequent the South, we have also encountered them in the North, in the East, and in the West. The mosquitoes in Yellowstone National Park have been known to sever arms.

For the most part, mosquitoes invade in small numbers. Our solution to these guys is simple: we keep a ready supply of repellent within reach at all times. Seriously. We have at least five hundred small bottles of mosquito repellent littered throughout our rig, much like colorful eggs on Easter Sunday. At least with mosquitoes we have recourse, and the new spray stuff doesn’t smell nearly as bad as it did in the olden days.

Ants are different. When they invade, they do so in LARGE numbers. Never have those numbers been higher than in Malibu, California.

We were camping in what was supposedly one of the premium campgrounds in the Los Angeles area. Our Airstream was literally a stone’s throw from Matthew McConaughey’s own silver bullet. (Not that I actually threw any stones Good Sir Matt’s way, mind you. The man is Airstream royalty.)

This campground was expensive, costing as much per night as a previous stay at the Beverly Hilton! But instead of room service and fresh towels, we got ants. Lots of ants.

This raises the question: HOW exactly were these ants invading our space?

When you think about it, there are at least a DOZEN places where our Airstream touches the ground. Surprised? Consider: four tires, four stabilizer jacks, the hitch foot, the water hose, and the power cable. If we use cable television, there’s your dozen.

Obviously, there’s not much you can do to prevent your rig touching the ground. So the plan was to defend our turf using… COMET! Yes, someone told us that sprinkling Comet brand cleanser on the vulnerable areas outside would prevent the influx of ants.

Quite frankly, it didn’t work. In hindsight, it MIGHT have worked if we had used Comet on our first day at the campsite. But we didn’t break out the Comet until we noticed the ant army invasion. By that time, it was too late.

For our Airstream interior, we attempted another Old Campers’ Tale solution to ant infestation. We spread Bounce fabric softeners throughout the RV. (For some reason, ants supposedly have an aversion to Procter & Gamble products?)

Sadly, I saw little impact from the Bounce strategy. Years later, we’re still digging loose dryer sheets out of our cabinetry.

When we mentioned the ant problem to the campground staff, the host sniffed, “Due to the drought, it’s a problem throughout Southern California. They are seeking water.”

We soon moved on to a different campground in Southern California, one near Disneyland. There were NO noticeable ants at the new campground, and we soon found ourselves with an ant-free interior.

What conclusions can we draw from this episode?

Comet and Bounce are best suited for their intended purposes.

A certain snooty, overpriced Malibu campground is a hotbed of ant activity.

If you find yourself camping in a place that’s absolutely overrun by ants, you have a couple of options. If you are staying for a short time, your best bet is to wave the white flag and move on.

If you are staying for a longer time, purchase some ant poison bait traps. You can find these in the gardening section at Wally World, or Home Depot, or Lowe’s, or the outdoor store of your choosing. You may even find them in grocery stores. In subsequent ant encounters, we have found that this poison bait is effective. I’m not endorsing any specific brand, but this one is well reviewed on Amazon.

Once you're finished screwing around with Comet and Bounce, bring in the big guns. Ant bait traps will do the job (albeit in a politically incorrect fashion).

You can also sprinkle ant killing bait (or set these bait traps) outside your Airstream.

I’m certain that someone out there is offended at the suggestion of using insect poison to kill insects. A more sensitive person might spread a smorgasbord of organically healthy food for the ants outside their camper. Perhaps the ants will choose to dine on organic bananas instead of invading your aluminum castle? And then there are those who are convinced that ants have certain inalienable rights like the rest of us.

While I’m not sure whether Gandhi would approve, I suspect he probably wouldn’t like ants in his bed either. Ant bait traps will solve your problem. We’ll address the ethical and environmental impact of ant bait traps in a future episode. We’ll also ponder the question of whether ants would be better served by adopting a more egalitarian colonial structure. Is the notion of an ant “Queen” outdated and elitist? Are worker ants long overdue for revolution against their oppressive overseers? Stay tuned to find out.

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