Welcome to the Jungle

“Listen babe,” my wife said, as I was making a cup of tea.

“What’s up?” I asked, expecting to be given an order on my day off.

“Don’t make the bed this morning,” she said.

“Make the bed?” I said, sheepishly; she’s never told me not to make the bed. I was half expecting her to tell me it was broken, or that she’d spent our last €50 on some new sheets.

“Yeah, it’s just that I saw a spider.”

“A spider?”

“Yeah, it was massive,”

“A massive spider? Right.”

“Yeah, and I don’t know where it went, so don’t make the bed.”

“Are you serious? It’s just a spider.”

“Just a spider? They bite. I’m getting tired of this flat already, first the ants, and now a spider. Welcome to the jungle.”

problems in spain, ants

Dancing ants in my bedroom Photo by Bradley Wind

I had to laugh. Jungle indeed, I thought as I tottered into the bedroom to find the massive spider, which was about the size of a chickpea, but you know what, she was right about the jungle.

I found the massive spider again a couple of days later in the bathroom as I was following another ant trail to work out where the little bastards were coming in. The spider was perched on the side of his net, curled up in a ball watching as an ant scurried in. The spider sprung out and wrapped itself round the ant.

“Good lad,” I whispered, “good lad.” At least someone was getting something out of the annoying ant problem that we have.

I never used to mind ants. Back at home they would always be scurrying about the garden and I’d never even flinch. I’d let them crawl along my foot and up my leg and then just flick them off. When I lived in Salvador, Brazil, I had a constant huddle of ants in my room waiting for when I accidently dropped food on the floor. They never bothered me though and at times they kept me company, along with the tiny lizards.

My wife has always hated ants though, in fact she hates most insects, especially cockroaches, but who doesn’t hate cockroaches?

“We had a huge ant problem one year and we had to move,” she said on the first ant sighting in the kitchen about six weeks ago, just two weeks after moving into our new ‘perfect’ flat. The ants were crawling down from the ceiling into the cupboard hunting for the sugar, which was in a jar with a small opening.

“Why did you need to move?”

“It became uncontrollable; the ants were everywhere and in everything.”

“Sounds like fun. Don’t worry, it won’t get like that,” I said, trying to play it down.

We moved everything to another cupboard, put down a couple of traps, and the ants disappeared.

A couple of days later there were a few hanging out by my laptop in the morning. I flicked them dead, wiped the top clean, and got on with my writing.

“The cabrones,” my wife shouted when she found them snooping around in her treasured pencil collection. We found the hole in the wall where they were traipsing in from, injected some strong disinfectant, and sealed it up with wall filler.

We thought it had worked until about a week later they started to appear in my son’s room. They were sneaking about in his wardrobe and under his changing mat. That’s when I started to get angry and realised we had to do something. I read up about what to do.

A few people suggested using baby talcum powder or chalk as ants won’t cross them, but the ones in our flat are hardcore and just bowl over it. If you kill them with your fingers it’s useless because the smell of their crushed carcass actually brings out more ants, so don’t try that one. I’ve found the best is to spray them with soapy water, they die almost immediately and you then wipe away the scent with a cloth.

Queen ant, spain

I hope she’s not that big! Photo by Doc J96

This will only keep them away for a while though. Some nests can have up to 300,000 of the sneaky buggers and what you need to do is kill the Queen ant. Oh how I’d love to get my hands on her. But it’s not that easy. We’ve tried using traps in which the ants eat the poison and then take it back to the nest, but no joy at the moment. A lot of people have said get the big boys in to sort them out. But when I called our landlady she fobbed me off a bit.

“Oh that’s strange, we never had ants,” she said.

“Really? How weird,” I said, staring at the mounds of wall filler already blocking up previous holes. As we’ve only been here a couple of months, and love the flat apart from the ants, I let it go. “Well, we’ll try a couple more traps and see if it works.”

“Okay, if not then maybe we can get some people in to have a look.” Could have been worse I guess.

That was last week, and since then the problem has rocketed. We’ve spent ages going round the house filling in all the cracks and holes that we see ants marching out from. It’s frustrating though because you think you’ve got them blocked out, but the next day they pop out from somewhere else. I’ve worked out that they are coming from the electricity outlets, so they must be in with the cables somewhere. They sneak out of the plug sockets and these strange loosely fitted squares on the wall, which have to be connected with the electricity somehow. Can you tell I’m a great handyman? I’ve had to throw out all the flowers on the terrace because they were covered in ants too. I’ve also spoken to our neighbours and they are having the same problem, and have done for quite a while by the sounds of things.

We’ve both had enough now and are trying to get the landlady to get someone in. I never used to be bothered by stuff like this, but it’s different now there’s a baby in the house. Everywhere I look I think I see an ant, it might just be a spec of dust, or a massive spider, but until I look closely for sure I can’t rest knowing another line of ants are coming to attack.

I swear the Queen ant can see me from somewhere. Sure she’s laughing at me cursing and swearing every time I moan that I’m losing precious writing time. I’m dreading when it gets really hot and the cockroaches and mosquitoes start to appear, that’s going to be a right barrel of laughs; the joys of living in Spain.

Anyone else out there had an ant problem? Any words of advice?

11 thoughts on “Welcome to the Jungle

  1. Had this problem in Texas over the years , the offending ant I seem to remember was known as the ” sugar ant”. Anyway cinnamon was not so bad , did have some limited luck though my poor dog hated it .In the end professional intervention was required and the problem was sorted by some Texas rent a kill guys , there was some residual for a couple of days maybe a week in fact. Anyway I remember the real problem was that they liked new places and clean places, it always started in the bathroom and the kitchen and then simply spread. We tried so many ways , in the end we gave up and lucky for us the landlady paid for the pro job — cinnamon was all I managed to find before they worked it — I think I would prefer ants to a CELTA course mind you ,1 You will need to do your research , and use that to convince the landlady there this needs urgent attention , ants do not go away and she needs to step up and fix this problem — still got one week CELTA left, no words for that misery but will ask a few people back in Texas what they usually do before the big guys come in , but for me it was cinnamon — be well and hope your landlady steps up —

    1. The landlady is on our side now and looks like she’ll pay for someone to come in, but I fear that it will be a waste of time unless we get the whole block involved. Yeah I could put up with ants for a while, but another CELTA course would be catastrophic. Great that you only a have a week left. Where are you heading with it?

  2. I once had an ant problem.

    But that wasn’t the answer you really wanted. You wanted a solution.

    Though fascinating to observe, for those with too much time on their hands – take it from someone knows – I hitchhiked through Spain to Portugal in 1970 when occasionally full days passed by between lifts on smaller roads. And there are a lot of free-range ants out in el campo.

    Most of the endless time between lifts I spent my time going slowly insane, watching ants and trying to herd them with twigs. There were billions, and they don’t like being told where to go. So yes, ants are a big problem in Iberia.

    On another more recent occasion, I rented a flat in Conil which served as a sort of six-lane main highway for ants coing and going from some above to somewhere below. They never paused anywhere in the actual flat, which was on two floors, but very tiny. Nevertheless, I didn’t stay there long.

    But that still isn’t the answer you really want.

    Salt water is definitely a very effective deterrent, but it will only discourage them from certain areas, becuase it kills them, but it won’t exterminate them completely, unless you find out their home address.

    Good luck with that one. I think the ants usually win and the tenants move out, rather than the other way round. I don’t suppose that’s the answer you wanted either.

    Sorry Barry, not to be of much help. But if you leave a big pool of ink around, and a lot of paper, eventually they might end up writing a novel with their little legs,like the chmpanzees on typewrters writing the complete works of Shakespeare.

    1. That made me laugh out loud. Great comment Bryan. I’ll try the ink and paper, I think they may be quicker than me at writing a novel, and possibly more creative. I had a feel that ants would be a problem in all of Spain, maybe it’s all that sugar and sweet fino smells that bring them over from Africa or where ever they come from. Yeah not up for moving out, cost us a couple of grand to move, plus we love the flat, plus I just can’t be arsed…so will plod on with the epic ant battle. Thanks for writing.

  3. The ants move into our house usually in mid July and disappear completely by September. I think it just gets too hot for them outside and they like our old cool house. We just live with them really; all foodstuff they might like gets to live in the fridge and husband gets a long lecture about leaving crumbs on the surfaces. The problem is if there IS anything tasty left out or a gheko or dead hopper is brought in by the cats them you will get the wide columns of them coming across the walls and that’s pretty scarey….so sorry, Barry I don’t have an answer really. The ones we have are the small ones, I call them sugar ants and they don’t bite unless you get one stuck in the crease of your elbow :-0

    1. I think I might be able to live with them, but the other half can’t, so the saga continues. We’ve got a packed fridge too now, and most of the packets are in bags, and bags are doubly bagged up. I’m waiting for the day when I come home and the floor is covered in clingfilm. Luckily we don’t have a cat so we should be fine for dead hoppers. Thanks for the advice though.

  4. One more from long term memory Barry, seem to remember that the real reason the sugar ant invaded was the search for moisture, I might be wrong but I think we used to make sure there was not a drop of moisture about , needless to say that is a real mission in any bathroom or kitchen — I would spend ages drying up stray droplets of water — anyway along with the cinnamon that was the best line of defence initially , but of course it was constant , drying the bathroom floor for ten minutes instead of ten seconds etc etc , — anyway that was just an add on from the cinnamon , just remembered that last night and my ex e mailed me to confirm that was the deal , last time I had the problem was back in 2009 in new built flat we rented , starnge thing was on the third floor — anyway — that was all , the sugar ants I guess are looking for water just like the any creature — anyway that was all — hope you holding them back

    1. We got some cinnamon yesterday so will let you know how it goes. There aren’t many today, but it’s Sunday and maybe they are waiting until I have a writing day so they can disrupt it again…have a good day!

  5. I cannot promise Barry , just remember it did help a fair bit in our case. Sure even if it helps a bit , that was an old Texan lady put me on that one, and she had been dealing with them for a lifetime. She would use garlic spray to keep snakes away from around her house and in general she was smart and nature aware so hope it helps in any case. One more week with CELTA , never ever again and I cannot fathom a DELTA, has been abject misery enough on this one , I go to Dublin when it is all over next weekend but not before . Just seen on TV 25 degrees in London today which must be nice , only 13 here and no surprises raining real hard , got to get out of here. I think a great deal about Madrid , but not allowed to jump on a plane and mess up so guess I will be moving slow and easy after CELTA. I really hope the ants start to settle down for you. As a big fan i look forwards to actually paying to read your novel , and wish you well with that. Cannot imagine the pain of writing a book , try to remember Big Bad Love by Larry Brown , as you work on ending your novel I think you will really enjoy that one, was my favorite read ever . All the best to you and hope the trouble and strife is on good form in spite of the ants, Seville may not be perfect for you but I reckon you would have it over Antrim, cannot even see out the window today and it is mid May. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh ……. Peace out

  6. I had horrible ant issues in a couple of apartments, and I ended up using borax and powdered sugar with a lot of luck. I mixed the two together (1:1), then either sprinkled it around where I knew they were (mine loved the bathroom!) or added a little water to make it syrupy. According to the internet when I was looking this stuff up, the sugar attracts them to it, they get the borax on them, take it back to their next, and then they die. Is Borax something you can get in Spain?

    1. Sounds like a great plan. Yeah you can get Borax in Spain, might be an option, although it seems like the little devils have run away; think they are scared of the wife and her lethal spray. Thanks for writing.

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