The microwave light flickers on and off. The plate turns, the motor hums, but the food doesn't heat. Unplug and move the appliance off its shelf, and discover a small pile of dried ant corpses underneath. Although they are no longer climbing the walls in great numbers, clearly our ant invasion continues.
Time to stop dilly-dallying. Call a nice-sounding extermination company found on the internet, Ecologia y Plagas. (Well, the ecologia part sounds nice. Plagas sounds pretty scary, but we try to ignore that.)
I feel great pride at arranging the appointment on the phone in Spanish, including questions about the type of chemicals used, and precautions that are needed. Phone calls in Spanish have been difficult in the past, so this must be progress. However when I call back to change the appointment time, a different employee on the line insists on switching to English. I guess some people have a lower tolerance for gibberish.
At exactly the appointed time, Javier the exterminator arrives. Everything in the house that can fit in a plastic bag or bin, or in the fridge (even empty containers) is bagged or stashed. Javier is a lovely young guy. I forgot to ask about taking his picture. It would have been nicer than more pictures of bugs. He starts with a plunger tool that is bigger than a syringe but smaller than a caulking gun, and dabs a bit of clear liquid near the electrical outlets where the ants come and go. Soon the ants are crowded around it like guests around the pulled pork spread at a Nebraska wedding.
Javier explains that the ants will eat the liquid and take it back to their nest, and within four days, they'll all be dead. This is when I show him the three different kinds of ant bait I brought from Canada, which are all supposed to work the same way. One of them was popular with the ants, but clearly didn't deliver the knockout.
Javier checks the contents on each one and points to the illustrations on the package. This one, he says, pointing to the sugary one, is for black ants. Another is for fire ants (yes they have them here in Merida, he says.) The third one, I don't quite get the name of the ants, but they aren't my ants. My ants are hormigas fantasmas. Ghost ants.
I was weirdly delighted to hear this because La Princesa is far too interested in those ridiculous Ghost Hunter type shows, even though she claims not to believe a bit of it. I am thrilled any time I can tell her anything about Merida she might find even remotely interesting, although perhaps this will be a stretch.
Anyway, I'm fascinated, and I have learned many other Merida-dwellers also find ants to be a compelling topic of writing and reading. It's like talking about the rain where I come from.
Javier explains, as he dabs around more outlets, that the ants attack the wiring because they're drawn to the sound of the electricity, and they will completely destroy appliances such as the stove, the fridge, and the microwave. As returning readers might know, they already wrecked the nearly-new fan in our kitchen.
After all the dabbing is done and the ants are gathered around the delicious poison, Javier gets out his spraying apparatus and starts soaking the walls and windows and corners with another chemical. This is where I get out of the house and stare blankly at my 501 Spanish Verbs book for a little while. It's hot out there, but there is shade, and the symphony players who live in the house behind us are practicing, so it is like a private concert, just for me. I am thinking we need to get some outdoor furniture and start spending time out there.
Soon the spraying is done and there are ant bodies everywhere on the floor, below the spots where they had been enjoying Javier's treat. When I come back from my endless errands after about an hour, more ants have come out of the walls to begin dining again at Javier's dabs on the wall. So I guess they're the ones who will poison the nest. What drama!
The treatment is done, I pay, and if we repeat it in a month, there's a six-month guarantee that we won't have ants. For those of you who care as deeply as I do, I will keep you posted.