INTRO FEATURE: The Ant Epidemic | Emerson Hoyle
In preparation for this article, I asked CCA students, staff, and faculty about their experiences with ants and received a variety of responses:
“In Freshman year Bio class, I had to get water for something, and the sink had ants crawling in and out of the drain. I swear there were at least 50 of them just crawling around the sink,” commented Marley Brackett (12).
“They're little demons that come to ruin my, and all my students', lives,” lamented Ms. Cesca.
Solana Herold (11) said, “I haven’t really seen many ants around campus recently, the staff are doing a great job!”
Mr. Kortman, our ASB director and English teacher describes his contact with ants: “I've experienced a long history of ant-related crises at CCA, which have ranged from annoying to costly to abjectly hopeless. At the moment, they are not crawling aimlessly everywhere in my class. At the sight of the first ant across my desk, however, that cycle of self-doubt and discomfort will come roaring back. I will do my best to channel my inner E.O. Wilson, but even he must not have had to deal with CCA ants.”
Ms. Myers, our resident English and Journalism teacher responded, “They have infiltrated my classroom and some of the staff bathrooms.“
“I have sweets in my classroom for birthdays and other special moments. Once I opened the packages and the ants were everywhere! Everyday after school, I would move the candy bag to another place and a line of ants showed up everytime. One day, I hung the candy on a hook about 5 feet up the wall, and the next day the line of ants went up the wall straight to the bags. That's just one example!!” Ms. Butcher, a new French teacher on campus, complained. (I would have taken French if I knew about the candy.)
After surveying faculty and students at Canyon Crest Academy, the opinions on ants on campus seem to range from dire to irrelevant. When asked to rank the ant problem on campus from one to 10 (one meaning “There are ants on campus?” and 10 meaning “I can't escape them — THEY ARE EVERYWHERE!!!”), 65% of responses ranked the ant problem above a five. Perhaps my sample size of 17 staff members is inaccurate — or my interviews are too few. But one view remains constant: ants are on campus.
The ant population has increased as well. Just this past week alone, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences announced that the ant population has increased to amount around 20 quadrillion ants worldwide.
The most common ants in Southern California, according to UC IPM (Integrated Pest Management), are the Argentine ant, the Pharaoh ant, the Odorous House ant, the Thief ant, and the Southern Fire ant. In 2018, the San Diego Urban Ant Project, where local students and volunteers worked with UC San Diego ant specialists to survey natural and invasive ants in San Diego, found that not all ants are good, like the prevalent Argentine ant that can ruin native land in San Diego.
With all of this ant information, what is our school doing about it?
Our school does have to work in compliance with the Healthy Schools Act of 2000, which ensures that CCA and other schools in the SDUHSD implement the IPM plan.
According to SDUHSD's AR 3514.2 Integrated Pest Control, “IPM means a strategy that focuses on long-term prevention or suppression of pest problems through a combination of techniques, such as monitoring for pest presence and establishing treatment threshold levels, using non chemical practices to make the habitat less conducive to pest development, improving sanitation, and employing mechanical and physical controls.”
In terms of recommendations, according to the University of Florida, it is very difficult to get ants to leave places. Instead, focusing on keeping ants out of buildings is more effective.
When our teachers were surveyed they had their own recommendations:
“Asking students to throw sugary drinks in the trash outside and putting my candies in resealable plastic bags,” Ms. Butcher recommends.
Ms. Mortenson describes: “Hahahaha — the ants LOVE the M200s. They hang out with me everyday and share my iced teas and lemonades. They love us, but we do not return their affection. I have tried to devise water barriers for my cups, but they have learned to swim. The ants are as smart as the students at CCA.” After trial and error with her innovative water barriers, she recommends, “Ant bait traps or perimeter ant repellants like borax around buildings.” Ants in San Diego are a non-native species, and they are extremely opportunistic. They aren't going after food most of the time, but food and crumbs definitely make it worse. “Mr. Whitehouse also agreed with the use of ant baits, responding, “After a week the ants are mostly gone."
I am not promoting ant genocide on CCA campus (although that is open for interpretation). However, it is clear that there is a monitored, minor problem of ants in our classrooms.