Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Scourge of the Earth (and My Yard)

They are absolutely the terror of my yard and one of the main reasons why I want to move back to the mountains: FIRE ANTS! These gruesome little critters have changed the way I garden and how I approach life in Charlotte. Not only can you not get rid of them, you don't really know where they are hiding. They pop up in the most innocent of places, such as under Kevin's pool. OMG, I almost had a heart attack when I discovered this sight under his kiddie pool. "Get out of the pool right now!!!"

Oh, how I wish there was a way to rid my yard of them. I can't go digging in the dirt as I once loved to do in fear that they will rear their ugly little heads and sting and bite me until I can't stand it anymore. If you have ever been bitten/stung by one you know what I mean. Blisters that itch beyond belief. It lights you on fire.

We have lived in this house for about 10 years. The reason I chose it was due to its proximity to my workplace which was less than 2 miles down the road in the opposite direction of Charlotte traffic; and because it sat at the end of a cul-de-sac surrounded by woods. The housing development was fairly new, only 2 years old. We were told upon purchasing the house that no one would be allowed to build in the woods at the end of the cul-de-sac because it was a flood plain, so I felt safe. Not for long.

I worked in the yard and made it very attractive and inviting. I planted perennials, annuals, vines, ground covers, shrubs, bushes, flowering trees and blueberries. I loved getting out in the yard and adding to it here and there with a new color or shape. I even had a raised bed garden one year in which I grew vegetables including green beans, zucchini, yellow crookneck squash, eggplant, green peppers, corn, peas, watermelon and lettuce. I was pleased at how successful my little raised garden held up in the Charlotte heat and humidity. I loved transforming the clay soil into a rich mixture that would succeed in sustaining what I wanted to grow. I was also happy to have pots of flowers strewn about to add interest, especially by the back patio. I also had mint, chocolate mint, and various other herbs in pots as well as a beautiful pot of tommy-toes (tiny cherry tomatoes that are sweet like sugar candy). And, at that time we did not have fire ants...yet. All that changed.

In 1999 we were notified that the development was going to be extended and enlarged through the end of our cul-de-sac and houses were to be added on each side of us. We would no longer be at the end of the street nor would we be surrounded by my most precious woods. Goodbye deer, goodbye foxes, goodbye possums and raccoons, peep frogs and critters of all kinds. And hello fire ants!

They bulldozed the woods down to nothing, raped it in fact, and left no tree standing. Clear-cut the entire woods. I swear I heard the trees cry that day. There were oaks, maples and pines, dogwoods and redbuds, sweetgums, hickory and numerous others, as well as endless wild honeysuckle! Oh, how sweetly the woods smelled in the springtime. And then it was gone. Taken away by the greedy developers who only wanted to put up houses and pocket the money, destroying our mother earth who had left a little bit of her soul in this place. I cried for and with the trees that day and for months afterwards.

We had seven rose bushes along the driveway. Now there is one. They tore up the driveway and extended our yard to the new street. I had perennials along the street that got plowed under because of the destruction. I had three peonies. I saved one and put it in a pot. I had black-eyed susans and echinacea, pincushion flowers by the dozen, bulbs of all kinds, and hostas. All gone except for the ones I saved and moved, and the majority of them have died due to the heat and me not wasting our precious water to keep them alive in pots. Therefore if they survive they do so because they are very hardy and tolerant of drought. And even then some die due to being plowed up by the fire ants themselves.

I can now stand at the corner of the front of my house and spit on to the side of our neighbors' house. Through the walls you can hear them talking at times and most certainly you can hear their stereo. It's like living in an apartment almost. It's really sad. And in between us and them there are fire ants. They live along the new sidewalk, at our mailbox, beside the driveway, at the base of my blueberries, along the fence, under the boulder, and we can't get rid of them.

The only good thing to come from the deforestation of my neighborhood was my boulder and rocks. The huge rocks the construction workers found were going to be broken up into gravel. I convinced them to give them to me, including my wonderful boulder. I have many a big rock in the yard now as a result of sweet-talking the bulldozer operators. But the worst thing to happen as a result of the deforestation was the invasion of the fire ants.

I'm not exactly sure why, but since that happened the fire ants have gotten 1000 times worse. Every time I go outside I watch where I step. I often worry about Barney, my dog, getting bit by them, and poor Kevin cannot go outside barefoot. Every child should be able to go outside barefoot in their own yard for crying out loud! We have treated these monsters with various things to no avail, including gasoline and fire! Nada. They only move from that place to somewhere else. They are even under our foundation. I wish to the heavens above that these creatures did not exist on the planet. There is no good reason for them IMO. Only harm and anxiety comes from them.

If someone knows of a way to be rid of these devils, please do let me know. I would love to get back diggin' in the dirt once again.

1 comment:

Steph said...

Oh! The image of them cutting down all those trees! So heartbreaking.