Annoyances of the tropics (part 4 of 5) : The ants

In my mind, the ants are the second most annoying thing in the tropics, with mosquito’s a close third. Ants are literally everywhere. When it comes to their bites, they cover the whole spectrum between ‘hurt like hell’, to itch like crazy, to feel nothing.

A pretty big ant that climbed on my leg while working in the garden. It’s probably a guardian leaf-cutter ant. Bullet ants are yet one size bigger.

Bullet ants are in the ‘hurt like hell’ category. But fortunately they are super big for ants, so they are easy to spot and they don’t live in colonies. Even better, they are not particularly interested in human settlements and they are not particularly fast.


Army ants cleaning our house in Cocles. Inside and outside

Army ants, in contrast, are well known in the tropics. They are unstoppable and have nasty bites (they say). Sometimes they happen to stumble upon your house, apartment or dwelling. They will check everything in their path and take what they find interesting. Fortunately, what they find interesting are bugs. Dead or alive. This is why they are also called ‘cleaners’ and people are quite happy if they get a visit. Just leave your dwelling, let them do their stuff and half an hour later, they will have left. We experienced that first hand when we arrived to our house in Cocles.


The so-called ‘fire ants’, however, are very much interested in all food in the house. They are so tiny that one individual is difficult to spot. But when there is food, they call their buddies and then the hordes are easy to see. As the name suggests, their bite itches or even stings quite a bit. Besides, they are trigger happy : i.e. they are easily provoked. The itch lasts a couple of minutes and then disappears. In La Ceiba we had them a lot in the kitchen. They also roam around in almost all plants, so working on the garden can be quite annoying.

Remedies :

1) Keep everything clean. Really clean. Keep kitchen sinks and dinner tables spotless. Do the dishes as soon as you have them. You can also turn the logic around : if you find them in large numbers on the dishes in the drying rack or on a table or in a cupboard then you haven’t cleaned properly.

Plastic jars and silicon zip locks and lids

2) Store all food in air tight or almost air tight containers. We have become enthusiastic users of silicon zip locks and lids. We also built up a collection of plastic jars of peanut butter and nuts. If you don’t have stuff like this, put whatever needs storing in the fridge and hope that the fridge’s seals are still in good shape. This is also a good remedy against moths and molds.

3) Don’t put your clothes on surfaces that are visited by the ants. You may end up with severe itches in let’s say ‘funny’ places.

4) Let them be. This applies to army ants.

5) Wear long sleeves, long pants and a hat if you are working on the garden – works also well against mosquito’s and the sun.


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