Snakes and Ants 2nd February 2010

Many visitors to India wonder how we cope with the snakes here. Actually, it’s really the smaller things that are the most trouble. Ants for instance are everywhere, indoors or out. They come in all shapes and sizes, but it’s the tiny ones that are the most nuisance. These are brown and so small its hard to tell they are not just dust, they get into everything, can easily squeeze into any screw top jar or ‘air tight’ plastic container, in fact anything not kept in the fridge will be invaded and its only when ‘dust’ floats on your coffee or your jam moves on the toast that you realise what you’re eating. They nest every where indoors, particularly in the light switches it seems. These at least don’t bite, the next size up is only slightly bigger and orange, and these do bite. Stand still in the garden anywhere near a hard to spot nest, and they will find you, and by the time you realize something is biting you, there will be hundreds swarming up your legs or in your clothing if you sit. The biggest ant locally is red. It makes its nest by pulling leaves together, these nests unfortunately easily drop out of the trees when you are working or walking a monkey in the garden, luckily although they have a painful bite its only if you squash them that they react, but when a nest of thousands drops on your head its hard not to panic! Among all the different sizes and shapes the worst bite comes from a large black marching ant, luckily not often seen. These don’t need any provocation, in fact they swarm towards any moving object and always bite on contact, and the pain of even a single bite is so intense it leaves you momentarily stunned. Ant encounters are a daily trial, snakes encounters are thankfully usually just the glimpse of a fleeing tail.


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