06 May, 2008

Formerly the Fire Ant Casino Hotel

Mississippi has no state lottery yet, but southern Mississippi has been friendly to gambling for quite some time. The coast features a number of casinos like the Beau Rivage, the Island View (with Emeril!), and a bunch of others. Originally it was illegal for gambling to take place on land, so the casinos built their hotels on the beach and the actual casino over the water (I am not making this up). After Hurricane Katrina I understand that the legislature in Jackson relented and allowed the actual gambling to take place on land, so long as it was coastal. A Native American tribe wanted some of the action, too, but they're have trouble because (a) their reservation isn't coastal, and (b) the other casinos are trying to keep them out. Methinks that (a) is just an excuse to cover for (b).

Anyway, this culture of gambling appears to have inspired the local fire ants. Some alarmingly large mounds are springing up all over the neighborhood. My wife's description of one such mound cannot be beaten: Look, they built a casino hotel under that mailbox. It was indeed an impressive mound.

A few days later, they tried to do the same thing in our yard, strategically placed between two of my wife's mums. I can't fault their choice of location; with yellow mums on one side and purple mums on the other, the view would have been impressive.

I nevertheless remained firm in my opposition to gambling, regardless of the eloquent entreaties of their lobby. Two days and one blister later, I paid a surprise inspection with some mound destroyer. A lot of ants were in that mound. Piles of them poured out short after the granules began to tumble onto the mound.

A few minutes later, it was all over. I watched for a while, trapped in a perverse mixture of pity and glee. I find it hard not to pity the agony of God's creatures, but I had acquired one blister already and another one while treating the mound. Quite frankly, better them than me. A bunch of winged ants were among the dying, so I figured I had hit a major headquarters.

Today I was looking at it again, though, and to my surprise a few fire ants were rummaging among the corpses of their fallen comrades. Some seemed to fall prey to the remaining granules; others appeared to stroll around undeterred. Where did they come from? What was going on there?

Fascinating creatures.

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