The Ant-Man Diary (Or really Ant-Woman, or actually Ant-Sterile-Female-Workers if we’re being technical about it, which we aren’t)


Photo 7

Thursday, July 16, 2015. Interior of a Brooklyn apartment. Deadlines loom. Distractions distract. Timestamps are approximate because time is a flat circle.

4:54 p.m.
Go to the kitchen. Open cabinets. Close cabinets. What did you come in here for? Make tea.

4:55 p.m.
As the water boils, notice ants on the wall, the one across from the teapot. A line of them, maybe five, each a series of tiny black dots in triplicate. From where? The window?

4:55:30 p.m.
A larger dark mass struggles slowly up the wall. What? Lean closer. It is brown, smooth, manufactured. A nutrition pebble: a piece of dog food. Several ants work together to heave it up the sheer face. Marvel at their strength.

Photo 1

4:56 p.m.
Trace the ants’ projected path to top of the windowsill. Look for their entry point from the outdoors. It remains hidden, but notice tiny dots that litter the sill. Crouch down. Thin strands decorate the end of a cookbook. Lift it, gently. Hunched underneath is a spider, small and round with eight spindly legs tucked under its body. The tiny dots on the sill below are ant husks, curled by death’s cruel hand. Count them. There are 26.

Photo 2

4:57 p.m.
Look back at dog food ants.

4:57:15 p.m.
Look back at spider death trap. It’s not exactly above, but a bit to the right. Note other paths the ants might take. There are many. But what if they choose this deadly alley? The path is clearly well-trodden.

4:58 p.m.
Send flurry of Tweets. People will want to know about this. Probably. Right? Add Insta, and Facebook for the old folks. Put “Storify Ant Tweets?” on TO DO list. Consider registering for Periscope. Don’t.

Photo 3

5:12 p.m.
Return to kitchen. Look for dog food ants. Where? Where? WHERE? Look down. Dog food is on the floor. Curse uncaring universe. Think of spider death trap. Feel better. Think of spider starving. Feel worse.

Photo 4

5:20 p.m.
Examine dog food on floor. No, don’t touch. Look. Ants are on top, working furiously. Breaking it into smaller pieces? Unclear.

5:45 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Make videos of lone ant struggling to pull smaller dog food chunk up the wall. Fist pump when it lifts dog food over small ledge at top of baseboard. Question life choices. Or at least today’s choices.


6:10 p.m.
Send some more Tweets.

Photo 5

7 p.m. – 11:30 p.m.
Check ants and spider periodically. Watch ants pull dog food from baseboard up wall and repeatedly drop it. Feel sad.

Photo 6

Go to bed. Dream of escapes that you can’t remember upon waking.

Friday, July 17, 2015

7:30 a.m.
The dog food is gone. The spider is hiding. There are still 26 dead ants below its web. Live ants are at the bottom of the wall pulling up a piece of rice. Not only is time a flat circle, life is an endless loop of TO DO tasks. Put “Clean the Kitchen” on TO DO list.

Photo 8

Saturday, July 18, 2015

9:00 a.m.
Clean kitchen. Clear ants. Gently brush spider out the window three times until it gives in. Say out loud: “I’m sorry, spider, you can’t live here anymore.” Feel foolish. Find a burning ant bite, inexplicably on stomach. Revenge?

Sunday, July 19, 2015

No ant events.

Monday, July 20, 2015

8:00 a.m.
Feed the dog. Discover ant swarm on wall, leading from window into plastic dog food container. Feel alarm. A few struggling ants? You can root for that. A swarm? Infiltrating the hard-earned food of the animal you voluntarily let in your home? No. You cannot abide. What’s next, all of the kitchen? All of the food? All of the world? All of you?

8:01 a.m.
Feel something snap. Fall into hypnotic trance of ant-killing fury. Curse ants, squash ants, drown ants, buy diatomaceous earth to sprinkle in ant havens to slice and desiccate their tiny bodies, die scum die, Google “can dogs eat ants” Google “how to remove ants from dog food,” sift dog food, duct tape window closed, get duct tape stuck in teeth because you used your teeth to tear it even though you aren’t supposed to do that. Discover bite on back. Google “ant bite photos.” Hate ants. Rue previous fascination and photo shoot. Figure there’s probably some sort of metaphor here, but don’t think about it too much. Miss spider.


Brooke Borel is a science writer, journalist, and author. She’s a contributing editor at Popular Science and also writes for the likes of Slate, NOVA Next, and Aeon. For more buggy adventures, check out her new book Infested: How the Bed Bug Infiltrated Our Bedrooms and Took Over the World, from the University of Chicago Press with additional support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

Image credits: Brooke Borel and Mike Wasilewski

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