Got ants in your pants?

 

(This Dave Barry column was originally published July 7, 2002.)

Summer is a lazy, relaxed, carefree time of year, when our thoughts turn to the possibility that our flesh will be stripped from our bones by millions of razor-sharp mandibles.

At least my thoughts do, ever since a gang of ants started a colony somewhere in my office, which is in my home in South Florida. (In fact, for tax purposes, this office occupies 248 percent of my home's square footage.) I'll be sitting in my usual work position, with my feet up on my desk, pondering the kind of question that, in my role as a leading opinion-maker, I am often called upon to answer, such as: Which is a funnier animal name, ''wolverine'' or ``weasel''?

(ANSWER: ''Yak.'' )

As I ponder, I will suddenly realize that something is crawling along my leg-a six-legged organism that has flourished on the Earth, particularly South Florida, for millions of years: the Bee Gees.

No, seriously, it's an ant. Immediately, I leap to my feet, whapping at the ant in a violent manner. Sometimes the ant has penetrated deep into what doctors call the Undershorts Region, which means I am in danger of whapping myself right into the alto section of the choir, if you know what I mean.

Eventually, I am able, using tiny tweezers with special rubber tips, to gently capture the ant and return it to its snug ant home. (Not really. I kill the ant. But I don't want to say so, because when I wrote a column about killing a giant flying insect in my kitchen, I got a LOT of irate mail from wildlife lovers, comparing me unfavorably to Hitler.)

Then I go back to work, but soon there's ANOTHER ant on me, and I am once again on my feet, whapping at my groin.

This has gone on for several weeks now, and eventually the obvious question arose in my mind: Wouldn't ''The Groin Whappers'' be an excellent name for a rock band? But also I am wondering: Why are these ants so interested in my body when, right next to me, is one of the world's most abundant sources of ant nourishment: my desk. My desk has never been cleaned, and consequently is covered with a thick layer of a substance known to chemists as ``snack goo''-a congealed mixture of chocolate, salt, onion dip, pepperoni grease, General Chang's chicken extra spicy, coffee, beer, and the fine residue of an estimated 14 trillion Cheez-Its.

My desk could feed a standard ant colony for well into the next century, so the logical question is: Why, with the National Snack Goo Reserve sitting right there, are these ants walking around on ME? Obviously, they intend to eat me. And while I have been able to hold them off so far via whapping, it is only a matter of time before they figure out that they can win if they attack en masse (French for ``in a big bunch of ants'').

Ants are capable of such behavior. Back in 7th-grade English class, I read a story called ''Leiningen Versus the Ants,'' about a guy in Brazil

who owns a plantation that gets attacked by a gigantic mass of ravenous ants that eat everything in their path, kind of like college students, except the ants leave less of a mess. What I remember vividly about this story is that, when Leiningen tries to thwart the ants by flooding a moat around the plantation, the ants use twigs and leaves to build a bridge, thus displaying far more intelligence than any guest I've ever seen on Jerry Springer.

If the ants in my office are even half that smart, it's only a matter of time before they get organized. The police will find my skeleton in my office chair, stripped clean, feet up on the desk, with no clue as to who perpetrated the crime except for the cryptic three-letter animal name I have typed, in my last moments, on the computer screen: YAK.

(c) Dave Barry
This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Electronic or print reproduction, adaptation, or distribution without permission is prohibited. Ordinary links to this column at http://www.miamiherald.com may be posted or distributed without written permission.

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