Saturday, December 06, 2008

Erumbin attahasam or The war with ants !

Erumbin Attahasam

You know the Eeyin nuisance. You also know the Eliyin thollai. What I am going to describe here is the Erumbin attahasam. I call it attahasam because; I have admired many times what the ant does, though it causes a little inconvenience.

Some houses have the ants in plenty but in some other houses, I do not find any ant. I do not know the reason why it is so. All I know is that in my house, there are plenty of Erumbus and they are all very intelligent. So, to outwit them you have to be more intelligent. You have to be innovative, creative, and very sharp. If you are not alert, the ants will outwit you in no time!

Let me come to the intelligence of ants, which will easily beat the human beings

Normally the ant will come where there is sugar. Now, how does the ant know that it is sweet and that it can eat it? If you keep salt by the side of the sugar, it will not go near salt, though both look alike. (I have seen some adults mistaking sugar for salt and vice versa, but there is no question of ant taking salt thinking it is sugar!!)

The samayal medai will be free of ants when the cooking takes place. Also you can’t see any ant nearby when the vessel is hot. Now, even human being can’t say whether the vessel is hot or cold just by seeing it. We can know only when we touch it. But the ants somehow know whether the vessel is hot or cold from a distance The moment the vessel becomes cold, you can see first one or two ants in the vessel with the cooked food or milk (even if it is kept on the gas stove).

Before you know what happens, the ants communicate to their relatives and friends about the virundhu that is ready for them, and, hundreds of ants will come there so quickly that you will be left wondering at the speed of the communication and response. (In hindsight, I think the ants would have done a better job in bringing the NSG commandos faster to Mumbai!). How they communicate and how the ants know where to come for virundhu, it is amazing!

Many a times, Girija and I had extra work to do by removing the ants from the cooked food or milk. One day, by chance, we found out that the ants don’t come near the cooked food, if they are kept in the midst of water and we were very relieved to note that after all, the ants also have a weakness – they can’t swim! From that day, we used this trick to keep the food from the ants

But, how many items you can keep in the midst of water and even if you forget to provide security to one item, you had it. The attahasam of Erumbus became so intolerable that once, believe me, I and Girija went around the Vessel shops to hunt for a very big tray, in which we can keep all the cooked items on the samayal medai.

But since the cost of such a tray was very high (about Rs 400), we postponed the purchase.

One day, I kept a Dabara with a Jangri inside it on the dining table. Till then, I had never seen the Erumbus near the dining table. Normally their domain is the samayal medai and the adjacent walls. The distance between the samayal medai and the dining table will be appro 5’ (straight line distance) and about 10’ traveling distance (considering the samayal medai height and the dining table height.) Within about half an hour, I could see hundreds of ants relishing the Jangri! Even human beings cannot say that there is a sweet in the dabara by looking at the dabara in a horizontal direction. But the ants, found out that from a distance of about 5’, and traveled about 10’ in the exact direction and reached the destination in no time. I thought to myself that perhaps ants have a very high smelling power and that is why they could reach out to the Jangri.

But the next day, I discovered that ants are capable of even better things, when, I did a research work. I placed another Jangri in the same dabara and kept it on the dining table, but this time, the dabara was placed on a plate containing water. This time, there was no ant for hours together. What does it indicate? Even though the ants could smell the sweet, they somehow know that they cannot reach it, so, they did not take the trouble of traveling the 10’ distance. They could not have seen the water from that distance, since the water was kept in a shallow plate. Then, how come they know that the sweet is placed in the midst of water, I have no answer. Amazing, isn’t it?

We tried many ways to get rid of Erumbus. Yes, the first try was to use the Erumbu powder. Girija and the ants used to play hide and seek game with this method for a no of days, till we exhausted two / three packets of Powder. When Girija applies it on the walls, in the route that is generally followed by the ants, there won’t be ants in that route , but they will appear in a different route. Girija was equally unrelenting and she applied the powder in the new route the next day, only to see the ants take a different route the next time. Finally, we acceded defeat to the ants when we knew for sure that ants have made the powder another dish for their late night dinner!

Next, we tried spreading the neem leaves on the samayal medai, on reading in some book that it is a good remedy to get rid of ants. Except that the cooked food carried the flavour of neem leaf, it did not have any effect on the ants.

So, finally we had no other alternative than to keep the food in the midst of water. At least we know we are safe till the ants learn swimming!! Hi, swimming pool owners, don't admit the ants in the swimming learning classes, please .

Hats off to ants.

1 comment:

Vasudevan Sundaresan said...

I think you have done a R & D on ants. Then followed it up with Engineering on Ants. A small subject made to look so beautiful. A nice perspective